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Quantum information science momentum accelerates in the Pacific Northwest

Nearly 275 quantum computing enthusiasts convened in January for the Northwest Quantum Nexus Summit around a shared mission to accelerate quantum information science (QIS) research, co-innovation, and workforce development in the Pacific Northwest. The Northwest Quantum Nexus (NQN) coalition brought together 50 speakers and panelists from over 20 organizations for the two-day summit at the University of Washington (UW).

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“The time is right for regions across the U.S. to ignite around quantum innovation. In the past year alone, the number of U.S. quantum professionals on LinkedIn grew 36% with 3 of the top 5 employers of quantum professionals in the U.S. posting double-digit growth of their talent pools*. The Pacific Northwest is ripe with candidates from the fields of study that most quantum professionals on LinkedIn have in their backgrounds: physics, computer science, computational science, math, and electrical and electronics engineering.”*

—Nick DePorter, Senior Lead Manager, U.S. Public Policy and Economic Graph at LinkedIn.
*Source: LinkedIn Talent Insights

Microsoft and fellow NQN founding members Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Washington are committed to building connections and synergy across the Pacific Northwest to help the quantum community accelerate technical innovation, application development, and a quantum-ready workforce. The end game is to nurture a vibrant, regional quantum economy with national and global impact, and advance QIS technologies to their full potential toward solving some of society’s most pressing issues. The summit was kicked off by UW Provost Mark Richards and Charles Tahan, Executive Office of the President, Office of Science and Technology Policy Assistant Director for QIS and Quantum Coordination Office Director.

New members across industry and academia

NQN welcomed five new members from industry and academia to take the stage at the summit: AWS, Boeing, IonQ, the University of Oregon, and Washington State University. The addition of AWS and Boeing brings two of the Pacific Northwest’s largest tech leaders into the coalition. AWS discussed the customer verticals interested in quantum computing technologies—logistics, agriculture, machine learning, finance, energy, and pharma. Boeing shared their Disruptive Computing and Networks team’s investments in quantum sensing, computing, and networks. IonQ generated excitement around their plans and vision for a 65,000-square-foot Seattle-area campus.

The University of Oregon described scientific programs in the over 50 members of the Oregon Center for Optical Molecular & Quantum Science, including the Oregon Ions program led by Assistant Professor David Allcock and Nobel Prize-winner Professor David Wineland. Washington State University Associate Professor Michael Forbes provided insight into key research areas such as NMR and imaging, analog quantum computing, quantum chaos, atom interferometry, and cryoelectronics.

Driving QIS accessibility and impact

The summit featured a Workforce Development session that brought together Scientific and Business audience tracks in showcases and discussions around workforce development, upskilling, and curriculum collaborations. Dr. Matthias Troyer, Technical Fellow and CVP at Azure Quantum, participated in an onstage conversation with Ewin Tang, a Ph.D. student in the UW theoretical computer science group. They discussed the most promising applications for scaled quantum computing, the hardware resources required to achieve practical quantum advantage, and what can be done by the market and policymakers to drive quantum impact and equity.

The post-event survey results underscored these themes, with attendees wanting more local and state government participation; more frequent summits, scientific forums, and facilitated networking opportunities; member expansion to cover additional organizations and adjacent geographies; and programs to attract entrepreneurs and investors.

In the intervening years since the first Summit, the NQN founding members highlighted progress and impact including Azure Quantum’s demonstration of the formerly elusive physics needed to build scalable topological qubits; UW’s attraction of $45 million USD in QISE funding to its ECE, Chemistry and Physics departments; and PNNL’s new superconducting qubit testbed and HiSVSIM and Ensembled Quantum Computing (EQC) advancements.

A successful first NQN Hackathon 

This year’s summit also featured a new NQN Hackathon hosted by Azure Quantum and IonQ where 75 students rolled up their sleeves to tackle hands-on problems. During the hackathon, teams self-organized to build solutions in response to challenges on IonQ’s premium 23 algorithmic qubit (#AQ) trapped ion system, Aria. The hybrid event included virtual workshops before the in-person hackathon staffed by Azure Quantum and IonQ teams at the UW campus. Three winning teams were selected by an NQN Member judging panel and celebrated at the summit’s close. Read what EyeQ had to say about their experience and check out Team I-Tummy’s project.

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Unlocking the collective genius of the Pacific Northwest

The summit reinforced the message from keynote speaker, Krysta Svore, Vice President for Advanced Quantum Development at Microsoft: “The promise of quantum will only be realized by unlocking the collective genius, not by one company or institution alone.” To connect with the Azure Quantum team, we invite you to join the conversation by registering for the Microsoft Quantum Innovator Series—the next webinar is on February 28, 2023 at 9:00 AM PT.

Last but not least, the summit’s organizing committee extends its sincere and heartfelt thanks to all NQN session chairs, speakers, panelists, attendees, administrative and operational contributors, and the UW HUB venue. With 94 percent of post-event survey respondents indicating their intent to attend the next summit, we look forward to the momentum continuing.

*LinkedIn Talent Insights data is derived by aggregating profile data voluntarily submitted by LinkedIn members. As such, LinkedIn cannot guarantee the accuracy of LinkedIn Talent Insights data.