A room brimming with the top quantum thinkers and leaders at the Quantum Collaborative Summit

The next quantum leap: 6 trends shaping the future of industry and education

Top researchers convene at ASU-led summit to advance the big developments in quantum technologies

Imagine a future where quantum science could help us tackle major global challenges like food insecurity, climate change and medicine. This is a future that researchers at Arizona State University and nationwide are striving to realize together. 

The Quantum Collaborative Summit recently brought leading quantum researchers together to cultivate new ideas in quantum science and technology – a field poised to advance industries like manufacturing, finance, medicine and more. 

Convening at the University of Texas at San Antonio, the researchers from across the country worked to network, brainstorm and plant seeds of innovation for a path forward. By the end of the summit, 32 novel proposals were developed.

The organizing body behind the event – the Quantum Collaborative – is an initiative organized by ASU that brings together top minds in quantum information science and engineering to drive innovation as well as inform policy and mobilize to prepare a much-needed quantum workforce. Composed of national laboratories, universities, nonprofits, and industry partners, the Quantum Collaborative is one of the nation’s foremost efforts to unite experts and drive broad institutional collaboration. 

“Advancing quantum necessitates bringing together the top thinkers, researchers, scientists and educators from across the field and nation,” shared Sean Dudley, co-founder of the Quantum Collaborative and Associate VP of ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise, which hosted the event with support from The University of Texas at San Antonio. “We’re committed to regular convenings where we can transparently share our latest findings, challenges and opportunities.”

The summit served as a launchpad for new aspirations, illuminating the most promising directions for the future. 

Leading the future of quantum  

After two days of discussion among industry, academic and national laboratory experts, several intriguing concepts emerged on navigating the road ahead for this promising field, with more than 30 projects proposed for development. 

Research efforts in QIST continue to have positive societal consequences, and the submissions to be awarded Summit seed funding all focus on work that will help to drive research in QIST forward in this vein.  Below are takeaways for recognizing the key future trends, building a robust quantum industry and fostering its talent pipeline for upcoming generations.

1. Advancing quantum literacy

Quantum technology intersects many disciplines, and it isn’t reserved for PhDs. In fact, ASU recently launched a flexible CareerCatalyst course: “Quantum Technology for Executives and Leaders” to help business professionals understand and integrate the technology in their strategic roadmaps.

As researchers continue to make quantum advancements, ensuring those findings are made more broadly accessible across the workforce is key to harnessing this science and technology’s full economic, scientific and societal potential.

2. Achieving ‘Quantum Supremacy

Quantum supremacy refers to how quantum computers are poised to perform tasks or calculations that are infeasible for classical computers – or would take centuries. 

Current efforts are aimed at achieving practical quantum advantage; focusing on ways that quantum technologies can accelerate time-to-solution, or be integrated with classical paradigms in novel ways to enhance performance. 

From solving complex mathematical problems to optimizing large-scale systems to breaking encryption methods that are currently considered secure, the advancement toward practical quantum advantage has the potential to transform industries and scientific research. 

To reach this milestone, workforce development and education are crucial, as experts need to be trained in quantum programming and quantum algorithms.

Lincoln Carr, special advisor to the Quantum Collaborative and Professor at the Colorado School of Mines shared:

“Without electrical and materials engineers, physical and organic chemists, biologists and biochemical engineers, health researchers, practical quantum advantage will remain focused on physics problems, when in fact quantum simulators and computers have enormous potential across many fields. This is why we need the full range of STEM expertise to contribute to the next phase of computing.”  

3. Bolstering security with quantum communication

Quantum communication systems offer a high level of security, thanks to the concept of entanglement – when two or more particles become interconnected in such a way that the state of one particle is determined by the state of another, even if they’re far apart. 

Quantum systems can also produce stronger encryption keys, and new frameworks for “post-quantum cryptography” are emerging that provide further protection. This means that messages exchanged using quantum cryptography are more difficult to decrypt by unauthorized parties, increasing security against cyberattacks and espionage. Quantum communication experts will be instrumental in safeguarding our digital world.

4. Developing new ways to solve age-old problems

Quantum algorithms are the specialized instructions designed to run on quantum hardware. When applied to machine learning tasks, scientists predict that quantum algorithms may be able to process and analyze quantum data at faster speeds. 

This means, in theory, researchers could use quantum algorithms to model and accurately deduce the properties of new materials for various quantum applications, from more efficient energy storage devices to advanced electronic components. 

Further, these algorithms could expedite the process of simulating and analyzing molecular structures, potentially leading to the quicker and more cost-effective discovery of new drugs and treatments. This is an emerging area of research being explored by many top minds.

5. Sensing the quantum world

Quantum sensors redefine precision measurements, transforming geology, healthcare, and environmental monitoring. For example, quantum sensors can play a critical role in medical diagnostics and imaging by enabling the detection of extremely weak magnetic fields generated by neural activity in the human brain. 

This could lead to advances in brain mapping and early diagnosis of neurological disorders. Quantum scientists are also developing sensors that measure trace amounts of pollutants or gasses in the atmosphere with unparalleled precision. 

Such a capability would better track environmental changes, air quality assessments, and climate research, informing sustainable environmental policies and practices to a greater degree.

6. Fostering innovation and sustainability with quantum materials

Quantum materials are substances that possess unusual electronic properties – like superconductivity, topological insulators, and exotic electronic states. 

Quantum-level modifications of these materials can enable superconductivity at higher temperatures, which would have a profound impact on energy transmission, medical imaging, and transportation, as it allows for the transmission of electricity with zero resistance over distance. 

All industries can look to quantum materials as a potential way to cultivate more environmentally safe practices. For example, quantum materials could be used to generate advanced energy storage solutions and more efficient solar cells, facilitating the transition to clean and sustainable energy sources. 

They could also lead to the development of lighter and more efficient vehicles and transportation systems, reducing energy consumption and environmental impact.

Across these quantum-focused areas, education and workforce development programs are key components, ensuring that a skilled workforce is ready to harness the potential of quantum technologies and drive progress in science, government, and industry. The quantum revolution requires an educated and empowered workforce to shape the next transformative advancements.

“In my experience, building collaborations and brainstorming always work better through face-to-face meetings,” says David Silva, dean of The University of Texas at San Antonio College of Sciences, which co-hosted the Summit and is a partner within the Quantum Collaborative. 

“UTSA was delighted to host this meeting and thrilled to participate in the birth of new collaborations and ideas that will bear fruit in the years ahead.”

Looking forward, the Quantum Collaborative is committed to educating the quantum workforce alongside the nation’s foremost experts. Recently, ASU built a Quantum Networking Lab and launched a seminar series to continue advancing this burgeoning frontier. 

The Quantum Collaborative is also open to institutions, labs and industry partners interested in formally joining and contributing their expertise. The Quantum Collaborative will share progress as the final projects are selected and awarded.

“Quantum could transform society in revolutionary ways,” says Dr. Torey Battelle, Associate Director of the Research Technology Office at ASU. “It’s a privilege to see this being pursued here and now, and to work with some of the most brilliant minds along the way. We are eager to see what the next year brings.”

Samantha Becker