The announcement also follows the group’s establishment of a new, more formal membership structure.
Roughly two years into the existence of the Quantum Economic Development Consortium, or QED-C—a National Institute of Standards and Technology-backed group of cross-sector stakeholders aiming to strategically confront quantum-related technology, standards and workforce gaps—the White House on Wednesday revealed member companies that officially signed on to steer it.
Boeing, ColdQuanta, Google, IBM, QC Ware and Zapata Computing—as well as NIST and the Energy Department—make up the QED-C’s newly announced steering committee. It marks an important move in the organization’s maturity.
During an email exchange Wednesday, the consortium’s Deputy Director Dr. Celia Merzbacher provided Nextgov with a glimpse into what the QED-C has accomplished so far, and how the committee fits into its broader evolution.
“QED-C looks forward to solidifying its role as the consortium that brings together all parts of the quantum ecosystem to accelerate development, innovation, application and economic benefit from quantum information science and technology,” Merzbacher explained.
NIST stood up the consortium in September 2018, and it was more formally codified as part of the broader National Quantum Initiative Act signed by President Trump in December of that year. Quantum information science and technology apply the world of quantum physics—at the atomic scale—and hold promise to radically advance fields across computing, sensors, communication, drug and materials development and much more. QED-C aims to pinpoint future needs around standards, cybersecurity, measurement and more that must be addressed to boost quantum development across the U.S. industrial landscape.
More than 180 stakeholders, including at least 140 companies, 30 universities, and six national labs enrolled to date.
Highlighting the organization’s moves since its founding, Merzbacher said the consortium has identified enabling technology areas of need, and is creating research and development roadmaps in areas around cryogenics, lasers, materials characterization and synthesis, electronics and more. The group is also working to inform the development of standards and benchmarks for practical application, hone in on the characteristics and trends of the quantum information science workforce and it completed an initial quantum computing market assessment and forecast. On top of multiple other efforts, officials on board have also assessed the impact of COVID-19 on the quantum industry, and followed up with recommended actions.
And though QED-C launched two years ago under what Merzbacher deemed “a more informal structure,” she added that it has now been formalized under a new membership agreement.
“The announcement today is upon the signing on of the steering committee member companies to the new, formal membership and governance. They are the first companies to sign on,” Merzbacher explained Wednesday. “Under the new membership structure there will be opportunities for members to compete for research funding and other benefits.”
According to the deputy director, the new governance structure sets out the procedure for annually electing steering committee members. The QED-C’s website lists names of individuals on the steering committee from the member companies and agencies that were announced Wednesday.
Merzbacher confirmed that the original members—formerly called the governing board, and now referred to as the steering committee—will serve through the end of the year. They were initially elected by the corporate participants in October 2018 for two-year terms, she noted, and there will be an election later this year under the newly instituted and formalized organization.
“Some may be re-elected for another term,” Merzbacher said. “Going forward we will replace [roughly one-third] of the seats each year.”
So far, the steering committee members pictured on the site appear to be predominantly white men.
“With the upcoming election, we look forward to having a diverse set of candidates,” Merzbacher said.