The Commercialization of Quantum Technologies: CLEO20 Special Event

By Suzanne Ffolkes, OSA Chief Communications Officer

The economic impact of the commercialization of quantum technologies could be substantial. Industry leaders discussed the path forward with research and development in a panel discussion on the OIDA Roadmap on Quantum Photonics held Wednesday, 13 May during the all-virtual 2020 CLEO Technical Conference.

“If you could solve certain problems with a quantum computer that you couldn’t with a classical computer because it was intractable, it could serve a great purpose,” said Tom Hausken, senior science advisor, The Optical Society (OSA), USA. Countries recognize the scientific and economic benefits resulting from quantum technologies, he added. “There’s the fear of missing out from a competitive point of view.”

The OIDA roadmap, created in collaboration with Corning, clarifies the applications and timing for quantum technologies and specifies improvements in optics and photonics components needed to enable commercialization. It covers three major application areas: quantum sensing and metrology, quantum communications and quantum computing.

The public and private sectors have invested approximately $2 billion (USD) a year in R&D funding in quantum technology with about $100 million (USD) a year in research.

Photonics technology exists but more investments must be made in engineering in order for the technology to be ready for commercial products, not just laboratory experiments, Hausken said. The talent shortage, he added, is not just in quantum science but in other areas critical for the development of commercial products such as photonics, microwave electronics, mechanical engineering and cryogenics engineering.

“Roadmaps are extremely helpful in providing both industry and the broader research community with insights on needs and opportunities, and establishing a well-integrated supply chain,” said Celia Merzbacher, deputy director, Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C).

QED-C’s mission, she said, is to enable and grow the U.S. quantum industry and quantum technology application across the spectrum and supply chain.

In order to progress to the commercialization stage, Merbacher said the consortium’s work is focused on the Valley of Death stage, taking the results of basic research and de-risking it, filling in gaps and identifying technologies to help commercial applications become a reality.

Roadmaps backed by development funding will help guide the commercialization process and support large scale efforts, said Mark Tolbert, CEO, Toptica Photonics, Inc., USA. Opticlock, a German funded project, is an example of a program that focuses on the highest precision possible and a goal of offering the results in a commercial format.

“We’re gaining application knowledge that we don’t even know exists yet so we’ll solve quantum problems over time with projects like this,” Tolbert said. “It gives us collaborations which extend beyond borders and institutions and companies that wouldn’t have been supported by simple market demand.”

Beacon milestones such as atomic clocks, laser-based magneto-encephelography (MEG) using quantum magnetometry and weather forecasting using quantum developed hardware must be shared with the public and political leaders to generate support and funding, said John Spencer, president and CEO, Photodigm, Inc., USA. “If the milestones are too esoteric or not really relevant, we run the risk of losing interest,” he said.

The OIDA Roadmap on Quantum Photonics is currently available for OIDA members at  It will be made public on 1 June 2020.


Posted: 13 May 2020 by Suzanne Ffolkes, OSA Chief Communications Officer | with 0 comments

The views expressed by guest contributors to the Discover OSA Blog are not those endorsed by The Optical Society.


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