Illinois governor proposes $500M for quantum technologies in new budget

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker is asking state legislators for half a billion dollars for quantum technologies in the proposed budget he released Wednesday—the latest show of support for a regional quantum ecosystem that has attracted millions of dollars in corporate and government investment in recent years and is emerging as a central driver of U.S. leadership in the field. 

In an interview with Axios, Pritzker said his proposal includes $200 million for a cryogenic facility needed to keep quantum computing systems cool and $100 million for the development of a quantum campus.   

"We already were establishing ourselves as a leading hub for quantum development—now we have the opportunity to take it a big step further," Pritzker told the outlet. 

The University of Chicago has assembled a world-class group of scientists and engineers who are leading the quantum revolution. In addition to cutting-edge faculty in engineering, physics and chemistry, UChicago offers one of the nation's first doctoral programs in quantum science and engineering through the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering

The governor’s announcement comes as a coalition led by the UChicago-based Chicago Quantum Exchange competes for up to $70 million in federal funding during the second phase of a federal initiative aimed at supercharging innovation economies that have the potential to become global leaders in a critical technology within a decade. The Bloch Tech Hub, the cross-sector coalition led by the Chicago Quantum Exchange, earned the region a designation as a U.S. Regional Innovation and Technology Hub for quantum technologies in the first phase of the program last year. That selection was announced in October by the  White House and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). 

While based at UChicago, the Chicago Quantum Exchange is anchored by the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Northwestern University and includes more than 40 corporate, international, nonprofit, and regional partners. It has played a key role in fostering the cross-sector partnerships that are at the center of the region’s growing strength in the field.

Recent funding has included $280 million in federal funding as part of the 2018 National Quantum Initiative Act and a combined $150 million from IBM and Google to the University of Chicago and the University of Tokyo last year for two separate plans to advance quantum computing.

“The University of Chicago is deeply committed to research in quantum science and technology research, and we are enthusiastic about our partnerships with the remarkable research universities and national laboratories as we form the world’s premiere quantum technology community,” said UChicago President Paul Alivisatos. “Governor Pritzker has been fostering the innovation environment in Illinois, and today’s announcement will uplift these efforts.  The advancement of quantum technologies with these extraordinary investments will lead to equally extraordinary advances for the state and for the nation as a whole.” 

The Chicago region is home to some of the world’s leading experts in quantum information science; a broad and well-distributed industry base; a vibrant startup culture that includes Duality, the nation’s first quantum startup accelerator; four of the 10 National Quantum Initiative Act research centers; and infrastructure that includes a 124-mile quantum network that is one of the nation’s longest.  

“Government investment is key to the growing strength of the Chicago region’s quantum ecosystem, which has been at the heart of advancing research, building a future quantum workforce, and driving the quantum economy,” said David Awschalom, the Liew Family Professor of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering and the director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange. “Quantum technologies have the potential to bring advances that will strengthen U.S. economic and national security, making this support important not only for the region but for the nation.” 

Adapted from an article that first appeared on the Chicago Quantum Exchange website.