Military Embedded Systems

Quantum computing project from DARPA names commercial partners


January 02, 2024

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

DARPA graphic

ARLINGTON, Va. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) DARPA named three industry partners for its Underexplored Systems for Utility-Scale Quantum Computing (US2QC) program, which seeks to determine whether an underexplored approach to quantum computing can achieve utility-scale operation – in other words, that its computational value exceeds its cost – faster than conventional predictions.   

According to a White House memorandum released in 2022, quantum computing is extremely important to U.S. national-security interests because an advanced quantum computer wielded by an adversary would be capable of breaking much of the public-key cryptography used on digital systems across the U.S. and across the world's computing systems. Such an advanced system would jeopardize civilian and military communications, undermine supervisory and control systems for critical infrastructure, and defeat security protocols for internet-based financial transactions.

In the initial phase of US2QC, the named companies --  Atom Computing, Microsoft, and PsiQuantum -- will each present a design concept describing their plans to create a utility-scale quantum computer; the concept will then guide a more rigorous system design focused on all of the components and subsystems that a quantum computer can be built as designed and operated as intended.

The concepts will be evaluated by a DARPA-led test and validation team comprising experts from government laboratories and federally funded research and development centers will evaluate the concepts.

“Experts disagree on whether a utility-scale quantum computer based on conventional designs is still decades away or could be achieved much sooner,” stated Joe Altepeter, US2QC program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office. “The goal of US2QC is to reduce the danger of strategic surprise from underexplored quantum computing systems. We put out a call last year saying that if anyone thought they had a truly revolutionary approach to building a useful quantum computer in the near future -- less than 10 years -- we wanted to hear from them. We offered to collaborate by funding additional experts to join their team and provide rigorous government verification and validation of their proposed solutions to determine its viability. The ultimate outcome of the program is a win-win -- for U.S. commercial leadership in this strategically important technology area and for national security to avoid being surprised.”

DARPA plans for the US2QC program to span five years and four phases. 

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