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Governor Pritzker Discusses the Impact of Quantum Research with UChicago’s Juan de Pablo

University of Chicago Professor, Juan de Pablo, with Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker at the third annual Chicago Quantum Summit.

The third annual Chicago Quantum Summit, hosted by the Chicago Quantum Exchange, this week brought together university, government, and industry leaders from across the country.

Liew Family Professor in Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago and senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, Juan de Pablo, who also provides oversight of Polsky Center activities in his role of Vice President for National Laboratories, Science Strategy, Innovation and Global Initiatives, led a fireside chat with Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, discussing the potential impact of quantum research.

“As the governor of the great state of Illinois,” said Pritzker, “I want to be number one in everything we do.” In order to get there, he said, it’s important to find areas in which the state can be ahead of the curve – and for Illinois, this space is quantum.

As part of this, Pritzker stressed the significance of the federal government also being an early investor in Illinois, speaking to US Department of Energy (DOE) plans announced earlier this year to establish five new National Quantum Information Science Research Centers, including centers led by Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. The labs are each projected to receive $115 million in funding over the next five years.

Already taking important steps to develop a national quantum internet, scientists from Argonne and UChicago earlier this year successfully entangled photons across a 52-mile network in the Chicago suburbs. Among the longest land-based quantum networks in the nation, the quantum loop is spearheaded by UChicago professor and Argonne senior scientist David Awschalom.

“We put ourselves at the front of the line and made it obvious for the federal government to pick Chicago,” said Pritzker, who in 2019 also commit $200 million to establish the city as a quantum hub. These funds, despite current fiscal challenges, are not in danger, he noted.

“There are enormous opportunities developing computers that are capable of solving in seconds what’s currently impossible for our most powerful supercomputers today,” said Pritzker. “We’re going to lead the way in launching the quantum internet.”

Laying out a “blueprint strategy” for achieving these goals, the DOE unveiled a report at a UChicago-hosted news conference in July of this year. The report provides a pathway to ensure the development of the National Quantum Initiative Act, which was signed into law in December 2018.

“We’re winning already as a hub of quantum science and technology,” explained Pritzker, who several times noted the importance of the state’s national labs and educational institutions. Illinois also is producing 10% of all the computer science graduates in the country. “We have all the right kinds of institutions and we’re here ready to go,” he said.

Building a quantum future also will require collaboration across many sectors and that’s something Pritzker said is done very well in Illinois.

“Even before we become the commercial hub of quantum – which I think we’ll become – the economic development opportunities and the attraction of people from all over the world who are leaders in this field means a lot to the state of Illinois,” he added.

“By building an advanced quantum research facility by the University of Chicago, we’re sending a clear message that the South Side of Chicago can be a home to a growing, world-beating industry – and that we can grow a workforce that can live and shop and contribute to a local economy.”

>> Watch the Fireside Chat in the video below.

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