UChicago Talent, Programming Proves Itself as a Cornerstone of Illinois’ Quantum Success

Quantum Waves

A new report from the World Business Chicago (WBC) Research Center outlines Chicogoland’s quantum ecosystem.

Illinois is a top state for deals made by quantum startups and ranks fifth in the nation for active quantum patents, according to a recent report from the World Business Chicago Research Center.

Institutions in the combined Chicago, Champaign-Urbana, and Madison metro areas have the third highest number of universities engaged in quantum research activities within the US. The region also has the third most universities with quantum-related academic programs, such as the quantum science and engineering PhD program from the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) at the University of Chicago. The program was announced in 2021 to prepare the next generation of leaders in this rapidly growing field.

Students have access to state-of-the-art facilities and technology at both the UChicago and Argonne National Laboratory campuses, including the Pritzker Nanofabrication Facility, the University of Chicago Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC), the Midwest Integrated Center for Computational Materials (MICCoM), Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source, and the Argonne Quantum Loop.

>> Innovations in Quantum: Researchers and Technologies at the University of Chicago

Additionally, the University is home to the first accelerator program in the nation that is exclusively dedicated to startup companies focused on quantum science and technology. Also launched in 2021 by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Chicago Quantum Exchange, Duality had graduated 11 startups from around the gloabe and currently is supporting another four in its most recent cohort. And these companies are already seeing incredible successes.

Five of the top 10 listed quantum startups that have raised more than $1 million in capital investment participated in Duality: memQ, qBraid, Quantopticon, Super.tech (now a part of Infleqtion) and Great Lakes Crystal Technologies.

“The WBC Research Center’s report highlighting Chicagoland’s distinct advantages in the quantum industry is fascinating. We were thrilled to see five Duality Accelerator Cohort 1 and 2 startups listed among the 10 Illinois-based quantum startups that have raised more than $1 million in private capital investment,” said Eze Burts, Director of Duality Accelerator.

“Duality Accelerator is unique within the multi-disciplinary Chicagoland quantum ecosystem – its purpose is providing a full spectrum suite of critical venture support resources to position quantum startup companies for marketplace success and economic impact,” he added.

Midwestern quantum startups since 2017 have raised $65.7 million through 37 deals. Over half of that was from Illinois startups at $33.2 million through 27 deals, according to the report. Notably, Illinois has more seed round deals – setting it up for future growth. As WBC reported, eight Illinois startups completed seed deals, second to California’s thirteen companies and above five by Massachusetts companies.

Quantum Patents

Illinois also leads in the number of active quantum patents registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office – with 2,231 patents in the last decade. It ranks fifth in the nation for active quantum patents at 1,273, leading all Midwestern states (55% more than Michigan and 102% more than Minnesota).

“The University of Chicago along with its affiliated Department of Energy labs, Argonne and Fermilab, are leaders in quantum science research and commercialization,” said Bill Payne, executive director, science and technology at the Polsky Center.

According to the WBC report, Illinois’ quantum patents grew at a CAGR of 5% from 2009 to 2019. The CAGR for the US patent market, in comparison, was 1.6% over this same time period. Clocking in at 75 patents in 2003, this number is expected to reach 303 in 2023.

This growth is reflected in activities at the University, as Payne explained, where there has been rapid growth in quantum-related invention disclosures from over a handful in fiscal year (FY) 2019 to 24 in FY 2023. “These disclosures are primarily in the areas of quantum algorithms and processing platforms, and quantum based communications and sensing,” he said.

The Polsky Center – which handles all IP at the University – also has had nearly 20 granted patents thus far. “This growth has been the result of the University’s successful recruitment of quantum science researchers many of whom are interested in commercialization,” added Payne.

Additionally, two of five national quantum centers are located here. Q-NEXT, based at Argonne, focuses on developing the science and technology to control and distribute quantum information. Fermilab’s Superconducting Quantum Materials and Systems Center (SQMS) aims to build and deploy a beyond-state-of-the-art quantum computer based on superconducting technologies.

The University also has relationships with two National Science Foundation quantum leap institutes: the NSF Quantum Leap Challenge Institute for Quantum Sensing for Biophysics and Bioengineering and the NSF Quantum Leap Challenge Institute for Hybrid Quantum Architectures and Networks.

// The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation manages the University of Chicago’s technology portfolio.

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