This fall, the University of Maryland College Park (UMD) and College Park quantum computing company IonQ are partnering up to open the National Quantum Lab (Q-Lab), specializing in research of the technology.
Decked out with a commercial grade quantum computer and hardware from IonQ, UMD Chief Strategy Officer Ken Ulman said it will be a space for students and staff to explore solutions using quantum technology. The lab, which is being created with a $20 million investment from the school, is part of UMD’s larger expansion of quantum resources at a time when scientists are moving to take the technology from the lab to commercial companies. So far, UMD has invested $300 million in quantum science, and has been working in the field on its campus for over 30 years.
Ulman told Technical.ly that UMD decided to pursue a national lab because it became apparent that quantum computing has the potential to help solve many of the world’s challenges, while also brining innovation to the local area.
“We think there’s an opportunity here to create,” Ulman said. “And we think that the ‘Silicon Valley of X’ is totally overplayed and overused, but this may be one of the few times that it’s appropriate.”
The lab, which will be located in the university’s innovation-centered development known as the Discovery District, will open next to IonQ’s headquarters. It will give students a chance to directly interact with IonQ employees. IonQ will also be assisting with staffing and program development within the lab, and it will serve as a collaborative workspace for students and staff.
The news coincides with IonQ’s move to go public, which is expected to be finalized in the next few weeks. The company, which started at a UMD lab, is said to be valued at approximately $2 billion following the IPO.
“We are very proud that the nation’s leading center of academic excellence in quantum research chose IonQ’s hardware for this trailblazing partnership,” said Peter Chapman, president and CEO of IonQ, in a statement. “UMD has been at the vanguard of this field since quantum computing was in its infancy, and has been a true partner to IonQ as we step out of the lab and into commerce, industry, and the public markets.”
Its location in the Discovery District, Ulman said, is also very intentional, because the investment in quantum is not “happening in a vacuum,” and it comes alongside a host of investment in the tech in and out of UMD. He hopes that the new center will help bring more innovation and investment to the area, especially given the potential reach of quantum technology. In addition to cybersecurity, he foresees applications in climate change solutions and rapid vaccine deployment, among other uses.
“We believe that creating a hands-on quantum user facility that can bring those talented people from around the world to come to the University of Maryland…and collaborate with the men and women at IonQ, we think it’s a really important step to creating the ecosystem,” Ulman said.-30-