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Role of academic institutions in the National Quantum Mission

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By Dr. Angshuman Karmakar, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur

The National Quantum Mission (NQM) stands as a monumental initiative orchestrated by the Government of India, aimed at fostering a dynamic and innovative quantum technology ecosystem. Spanning the period from 2023-24 to 2030-31, this mission seeks to position India as a vanguard in quantum science and technology on the global stage.

Quantum technology, a swiftly evolving domain, holds the potential to reshape industries ranging from computing and communication to healthcare. Quantum computers, for instance, possess the prowess to solve challenges that defy classical computation. Quantum communication networks, meanwhile, promise invulnerable and secure exchanges.

Within the next eight years, the NQM targets developing intermediate-scale quantum computers with 50-1000 physical qubits in various platforms like superconducting and photonic technology. The mission entails investment in research and development of quantum technologies, coupled with the creation of quantum-powered products and services. Notably, this mission is designed to cultivate a skilled workforce in quantum science and technology, while fostering international collaborations to expedite the advancement of future technologies that will soon transform into present realities.

As the NQM unfurls, academic and research institutions stand primed to collaborate and contribute, catalysing quantum technology development and propelling economic growth. For example, the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IITK) delves into Quantum Cryptography, a domain crucial for safeguarding data confidentiality, integrity, and network security. Despite the numerous advantages of quantum computing, such as accelerated drug discovery, accurate weather forecasts, faster artificial and machine learning
applications, and more, quantum cryptography, which focuses on computer security, remains its single most crucial element.

IITK has undertaken extensive research on areas like post-quantum cryptography that uses protocols that can run on existing computing devices and use already established communication channels. There is a lot of ongoing work on computer security, which is the most significant implication of quantum computing with its potential to break commonly used encryption protocols.

Currently, post-quantum cryptography research focuses on analysing physical attacks on cryptographic schemes to propose countermeasures. It includes testing the performance and deployment of countermeasures on a variety of platforms like graphics processing units (GPUs) and small sensors or microcontrollers.

The ongoing research positions the institute to play a pivotal role in the formulation of post-quantum cryptographic standards, ensuring a seamless transition from existing norms and guarding against impending threats. Such contributions reinforce India's prowess in quantum technologies and cybersecurity, rendering the nation enticing for foreign investment and talent.

This drive dovetails with the aspiration to bolster India's scientific and technological competency while harnessing quantum technologies to enhance healthcare, communication, and disaster management, thereby fortifying national security and interests.

Notably, IITK also boasts a distinguished track record in quantum physics, quantum computing, and quantum communication research. Its commitment to pioneering studies in these arenas significantly contributes to the emergence of novel technologies in the field.
Harnessing their scientific and engineering expertise, top-tier institutions can pave the way for quantum-enabled products and services such as quantum computers, communication networks, and sensors. IITK has already forayed into quantum computing courses, which are instrumental in training the forthcoming cohort of scientists and engineers, essential for the innovation and utilisation of quantum technologies.

Collaboration, a bedrock of progress, sees India’s premier institutions uniting with their global counterparts, propelling quantum technology advancement and propelling the nation toward global leadership in the field. Beyond these realms, academic institutions hold the potential to further expedite the NQM, a transformative opportunity for India to ascend as a quantum superpower. The momentum of the mission can be galvanised by organising conferences and workshops focused on quantum technologies, provision of
technical support to quantum technology startups, advocacy for quantum technology advancement at national and international forums, and cultivating awareness among students and the public.

As India propels forward on the NQM trajectory, it is the synergy between government initiatives and academic brilliance that will steer the nation toward realising its quantum ambitions. With an unyielding commitment to innovation, collaboration, and education, India’s academic institutions serve as the fulcrum for propelling quantum technology from theory into transformative reality.

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