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India Launches National Mission on Quantum Technologies

India National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications NM QTA

The government, in its budget for this year, announced a India national mission on quantum technologies and applications (NM-QTA).

The project will have a total budget outlay of INR 8,000 crores (around US$ 1.1 million) over five years and will be implemented by the Department of Science and Technology (DST).

According to a press release, the Finance Minister said that the new economy is based on innovations that disrupt established business models; technologies like AI, IoT, 3D printing, drones, DNA data storage, and quantum computing are rewriting the world economic order.

Quantum technology is opening up new frontiers in computing, communications, and cybersecurity. A large number of commercial applications are expected to come from developing theoretical constructs.

Quantum technologies are rapidly developing globally with huge disruptive potential. The next-generation transformative technologies to be explored under this mission include quantum computers and computing, quantum communication, quantum key distribution, encryption, cryptanalysis, quantum devices, quantum sensing, quantum materials, and quantum clocks.

The areas of focus for the mission will be in fundamental science, translation, technology development, human and infrastructural resource generation, and start-ups to address national issues.

The applications under the mission include aerospace engineering, numerical weather prediction, simulations, securing communications and financial transactions, cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing, health, agriculture, and education.

It aims to create high-skilled jobs, develop human resources and start-ups, and promote technology-led economic growth.

The press release claimed that the range of quantum technologies is expected to be a major technology disruption that will “change [the] entire paradigm of computation, communication and encryption”.

The mission plans to draw upon the existing strengths within academic institutes across India to support interdisciplinary research projects in key verticals involving quantum technology. It will try to develop key foundational strengths in important core areas.

Research, operational implementations, human resource availability, and technology development are in the rudimentary stage.

It has become imperative both for the government and industries to be prepared to develop these emerging and disruptive technologies to secure communications and financial transactions, remain competitive, drive societal progress, generate employment, foster economic growth, and to improve the overall quality of life, the release stated.

The mission intends to tackle the ever-increasing technological requirements of society and consider the international technology trends and roadmaps of leading countries for the development of next-generation technologies.

The implementation of the mission would help secure communications through fibre and free space and develop quantum encryption and cryptanalysis.

The mission will help prepare skilled manpower, boost translational research, and encourage entrepreneurship and start-up ecosystem development, the release claimed.

Quantum computers store and process information using quantum two-level systems (quantum bits or qubits), which unlike classical bits, can be prepared in superposition states. This key ability makes quantum computers extremely powerful compared to conventional computers when solving certain kinds of problems like finding prime factors of big numbers and searching large databases.

The prime factorisation quantum algorithm has important implications for security as it can be used to break RSA encryption, a popular method for secure communication.

With a solid research base and workforce founded on significant and reliable government support, the mission could lead to the creation of innovative applications by industries, thereby stimulating economic growth and job creation, which will feedback into a growing quantum-based economy.

The government’s financial and organisational support will also ensure that both the public and private sectors will benefit. It will establish standards to be applied to all research and help stimulate a pipeline to support applications well into the future, the release added.

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