Critical Update: To Bridge Quantum’s Valley of Death, Labs Need Funding and Workforce


Oak Ridge National Lab’s Travis Humble discussed the state of quantum technology development and what it demands for future development. 

Quantum technologies are among the more elusive emerging tech fields, largely due to the complicated physics that bely how the technology is set to function.

While quantum has the potential to improve fields like computing, cybersecurity and telecommunications, making the jump from theory into application is particularly difficult for researchers. At the Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, quantum technology is still in its infancy.

“I would say that today's technology is very much in the early stages. The types of quantum computers that we have developed and demonstrated are still on the order of toy problems, you know, demonstrations of the feasibility of quantum computing, but not of its true potential,” Travis Humble, the interim director of the Quantum Science Center told Nextgov

Humble described the current state of quantum technology, specifically quantum computing, as facing more of a “technology gap” instead of the tech sector’s typical valley of death. He said this is partially because of the ongoing need to ask more questions about the fundamental science belying quantum physics.

Investing in continued quantum sciences research and supporting a growing workforce are two key areas that will translate to viable quantum devices and applications.

“I don't think that we have enough knowledge yet in this area, to jump straight to building these types of products,” he said. “In addition to the funding, the other challenge at the moment is building out the workforce that is capable of developing these ideas. Because it's fundamental science because it's research and development, we actually need people who have familiarity with quantum mechanics as well as the types of systems that it will be translated into.”