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CHIPS Articles: Air Force, Navy accelerate quantum research with international virtual event

Air Force, Navy accelerate quantum research with international virtual event
By Deliarae Jesaitis, Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs - September 14, 2020
ROME, N.Y. (AFNS) -- The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Information Directorate is spearheading an international alliance of principal investigators across government, academia and industry to accelerate quantum enabling technologies.

Innovare Advancement Center, a partnership between the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate, New York State; Oneida County, New York; the City of Rome, New York; the Griffiss Institute; NYSTEC; and the State University of New York, announce the 18 research teams from around the world who have qualified for awards for their potentially game-changing quantum research and innovations as part of the live, virtual “Million Dollar International Quantum U Tech Accelerator.”

This global engagement took place Sept. 1-3, and boasted cross-department support from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and Office of Naval Research.

More than 1,000 top-tier researchers, members of industry, higher education leaders and members of the public from around the world, virtually attended this first-of-its-kind event centered around a $1 million quantum-focused pitch competition for university researchers. Notably, viewers took part and learned more about how advanced research, especially related to quantum, can lead to incredible technological progress during the keynote, “Quantum Fundamentals for Everyone,” by astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson and Dr. Will Roper, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force Acquisition Executive.

Nearly 250 teams from 22 countries submitted proposals to take part in this unique pitch competition. Of those, 36 teams were selected to pitch their potentially game-changing concepts related to quantum timing, sensing, information processing/computing and communications/networking at the event to an elite panel of judges. On Sept. 1-2, 36 teams pitched ideas ranging from quantum sensors for GPS-denied navigation and a chip-scale integrated quantum platform, to ion traps and innovative lasers. On Sept. 3, 18 teams went on to qualify for a portion of the more than $1 million in basic research funding provided by the AFRL, AFOSR, and ONR.

The teams qualifying for the $1 million-plus in basic research funds are from the following universities from around the world: Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, University of Arizona, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Institut d’Optique Graduate School, CNRS, The Australian National University, University of Pittsburgh, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Melbourne, University of Chicago and Super.tech, Monash University, University of California Santa Barbara, University of Texas at Austin and New York University, University of Queensland, University of Sydney, Harvard University, Syracuse University, UC Berkeley.

During the very robust keynote conversation titled “Quantum Fundamentals for Everyone,” Tyson and Roper, spoke about quantum physics, quantum mechanics, the universe and even fine art.

“If you are a researcher, thank you for being here. We are rooting for you. I hope you win. I hope that you bring in that next spooky effect that will eventually, hopefully, become commonplace for us like the laser is today,” Dr. Roper said to the audience at the close of the keynote. “For the students who are here, we really welcome you. We are excited about your interest in science. The Air Force and the Space Force are great places to be scientists. We really, really love technology and science and service. We would like at this event, which we will continue each year, to bring a new quantum phenomenon into the military. I don’t care what it is. We just want to start making this new battleground of physics something that is as commonplace as the airplane or satellite is today.”

The event also featured breakout sessions, “Coffee and Concepts” and “Poster Sessions,” with the purpose of stimulating collisions of thought through meeting new people, making connections and chatting about all-things quantum.

The “Million Dollar International Quantum U Tech Accelerator” was the kick-off event for the Innovare Advancement Center, the new open innovation campus located at the Griffiss Business and Technology Park in Rome, N.Y.

“The Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate welcomes you to the Innovare community, our launch pad for creative collisions among the international research community,” said Col. Timothy Lawrence, director of AFRL’s Information Directorate, during the opening ceremony. “The Air Force Research Laboratory launched the ‘1 Million Dollar International Quantum U Tech Accelerator’ in partnership with the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and Office of Naval Research, because we are focused, and we are motivated, and we know you are too, to accelerate the achievement of quantum breakthroughs that can elevate our game–in the air, on the land, at sea, in space and cyberspace.”

“With the opening of the Innovare Advancement Center, we’re bringing together government, industry and academia, and it’s a great place for researchers from all around the world to come together and continue this important work,” said AFRL commander, Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, during opening remarks. “Quantum breakthroughs are challenging, and it’s going to take all of us coming together to solve them effectively.”

In addition to those already mentioned, honorable guest speakers from industry, academia and government also took part in the 3-day event, including the Office of The Under Secretary of Defense, U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy, Office of Naval Research, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, The Quantum Economic Development Consortium, IBM; Citigroup, NY Creates, Oneida County, University of Queensland Australia, Stony Brook University and SUNY Polytechnic Institute.

As Innovare-connected research takes place at partnering organizations all over the world, the Innovare launch is concurrently a bold step forward in implementing the National Quantum Initiative Act, which aims to foster the development of a quantum technology ecosystem among government, industry and academia.

The 3-day event is now available for viewing on YouTube:

• Day 1 - https://youtu.be/rsF5g85kXoM
• Day 2 - https://youtu.be/QktdRyOxHvY
• Day 3 - https://youtu.be/lg4bR4GTNvw

A production team watches a broadcast of Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson giving a keynote speech. Nearly 250 teams from 22 countries submitted proposals to take part in the “Million Dollar International Quantum U Tech Accelerator” event in Rome, N.Y. This global engagement took place Sept. 1-3, and boasted cross-department support from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and Office of Naval Research. (Courtesy photo)
Col. Timothy Lawrence, director of AFRL's Information Directorate at Rome, N.Y., speaks during the “Million Dollar International Quantum U Tech Accelerator” event that took place Sept. 1-3. Nearly 250 teams from 22 countries submitted proposals to take part in the engagement supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and Office of Naval Research. (Courtesy photo)
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