A strategic partnership between Harvard University and Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been established to accelerate fundamental investigation and invention in quantum networking. This initiative will increase capacity for student recruitment, training, outreach, and workforce development in this important field of new technology while providing major financing for faculty-led research at Harvard. The initiative’s primary goal is to propel the Harvard Quantum Initiative’s specific research goals in quantum networking forward quickly (HQI).

According to Harvard Provost Alan M. Garber, collaboration between academia and industry can speed up scientific discovery and technological advancement. “Through this partnership with AWS, we will contribute scientific research and teaching to some of the most intriguing quantum science frontiers. Together, we will promote the objectives of the Harvard Quantum Initiative, an interfaculty project that serves as an example of the benefits of cooperation between many scientific fields.

According to Antia Lamas-Linares, the quantum networking lead at AWS, “Quantum networking is an emerging sector with promise to help tackle challenges of growing importance to our world, such as secure communication and potent quantum computing clusters.” The joint project between AWS and Harvard will “harness premier scientific talent to explore quantum networking now and provide a framework to develop the future quantum workforce.”

In the fields of quantum memory, integrated photonics, and quantum materials, AWS will support faculty-led and developed research projects at HQI through a three-year research agreement made possible by Harvard’s Office of Technology Development. A portion of that money will also enable the NSF-supported Center for Nanoscale Systems at Harvard, a key facility for nanofabrication, materials characterization, soft lithography, and imaging, with locations in Cambridge and at the Science and Engineering Complex in Allston, to upgrade its quantum fabrication capabilities.

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The overarching objective of the research initiatives is to create the fundamental techniques and technologies for what will eventually develop into a quantum internet, where communication and data processing are carried out in accordance with quantum mechanics. Exploring potential quantum networking applications is a crucial area of focus as the world faces constant challenges to privacy and security. Unprecedented levels of security and anonymity are anticipated to be made possible by the way information behaves in quantum networks. However, in order to store, alter, repeat, and transmit quantum information over great distances, physicists, engineers, and materials scientists must overcome certain obstacles.

Exploring this potential necessitates a thorough comprehension of the most difficult scientific problems facing the sector, which will result in the creation of new hardware, software, and applications for quantum networks, according to Lamas-Linares. Mikhail Lukin, the George Vasmer Leverett Professor of Physics and codirector of HQI, said, “These projects build upon fundamental work that has been done at Harvard labs for well over a decade by several generations of students and postdocs who have pushed the frontier, starting from theory, to experimental physics, to device engineering, to materials development.

Researchers at AWS will work to increase the engineering maturity and scalability of quantum memory technology concurrently with research initiatives at Harvard. The information released today builds on Amazon’s June 2022 announcement of the AWS Center for Quantum Networking. In that announcement, it was stated that AWS would concentrate on tackling technical and scientific problems in order to create new hardware, software, and applications for quantum networks that would connect and enhance the capabilities of individual quantum processors. Antia Lamas-Linares, who oversees a group of AWS Quantum Research Scientists at the AWS Center for Quantum Networking, will serve as the alliance’s leader.

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As Lukin said, “operation between academic labs, small businesses, major corporations, and maybe also government labs will be necessary for innovation in sophisticated technological sectors like quantum.” “Enabling these kinds of collaborations is part of the HQI mission, and this partnership with AWS is a crucial first step in that direction.”

According to Evelyn Hu, HQI codirector and the Tarr-Coyne Professor of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, “In quantum, we have a unique opportunity because the research is still so much in the early stages of basic discovery, yet also at the threshold of commercial implementation” (SEAS). In terms of science and technology, this is highly rare. It’s critical for students pursuing training in this area, in particular, to have an understanding of what science and engineering can accomplish as well as what those fields must do in order to scale up, enter the outside world, and remain relevant.

Additional philanthropic financing from AWS will aid Harvard in educating and assisting graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in addition to the quantum research cooperation, particularly with a focus on enticing young scientists and engineers from underrepresented backgrounds. Although industry projections predict that quantum technologies will add several hundred billions of dollars in worth over the following ten years, there are presently insufficient quantum specialists to handle this work. President Biden’s most recent directives made mention of this personnel shortfall for quantum technologies. The “AWS Generation Q Fund at the Harvard Quantum Initiative” seeks to start building a diverse talent pipeline of exceptionally competent researchers to educate the following generation of quantum scientists and engineers.

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Hu stated that AWS “appreciates that HQI can play a profound and seminal role in helping build the future of the quantum workforce, making opportunities possible for the next generation of leaders and innovators,” including by endorsing the objectives of the Research Scholar Initiative (RSI) of the Graduate School of Arts and Science and other initiatives that “provide exploratory bridges towards higher-degree programs,” Hu said. These programs can offer supervised research and training, introduce students to quantum research, and finance coursework, conference attendance, and conference presentations. These scholarly connections are crucial for integrating a larger population into the community.

According to Lukin, there is a shortage of skilled workers with a quantum education, including engineers, business managers, and physicists. We’re in a special position to help,” he said. The majority of academics and group leaders at all significant quantum research institutions in the U.S. and overseas received their education at Harvard. These initiatives continue to gain momentum. Stacey L. and David E. Goel ’93 and other alumni made it feasible for Harvard to complete plans to completely remodel an existing campus building into a new physical home for HQI as well as a quantum hub, which was announced as a new PhD program in quantum science and engineering last year.

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