India to become seventh nation to have National Quantum Mission

The new mission comes four years after Narendra Modi government in December 2018 announced Rs 3,660 crore National Mission on Cyber-Physical Systems
Last Updated 19 April 2023, 19:29 IST

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared Rs 6,003 crore National Quantum Mission seeking to realise a host of frontier technologies related to quantum computing, quantum communication and quantum sensing that only a handful of countries possess.

The eight-year mission involving research institutions and industry will have four verticals – three on quantum computing, communication and sensing, and a fourth one on developing novel materials and devices that would aid in the three core programmes.

"The National Quantum Mission is going to give India a quantum jump in this arena. India will be the seventh country to have a dedicated quantum mission after the US, Austria, Finland, France, Canada and China,” Union Science and Technology Minister Jitendra Singh said here.

“All these countries are also at the R&D stage. None of them has started any applications of it (quantum technology). We are also going to be at par.”

Because of its immense potential in a wide range of applications from ultra secure military communication to extra-precise MRI machines, advanced countries and big corporations have invested billions of dollars in the futuristic quantum technology.

“We also require a mission mode programme where everyone will pool their expertise, backed by sustained funding. The technology is too complex to be pursued by individual researchers. The mission was planned in 2020, but the pandemic delayed its realisation,” Urbasi Sinha, a professor at Raman Research Institute, Bengaluru and one of the brains behind the mission told DH.

Sinha who heads the quantum information and computing laboratory at RRI collaborates with Indian Space Research Organisation and helms the country’s first government-funded project on satellite based long distance quantum communications.

“One of the mission deliverables is to achieve long-distance quantum communication across a 2000 km gap either using satellites or fibres besides establishing a quantum communication network. For this we need multiple ground stations in India and outside,” she said.

Another objective is to make progress with quantum computing and develop 50 physical qubits (quantum equivalent of bit or binary digit in classical computing) to start with and aim to develop up to 1,000 qubits. The qubits are developed in multiple platforms like super-conducting, ionic or photonic.

For a perspective, the Indian achievement so far is limited to developing 2-3 qubits in a super-conducting platform. IBM, on the other hand, developed 430 qubits and promised to come out with 1000 qubits by 2023. There are other big corporations in quantum computing.

The new mission comes four years after Narendra Modi government in December 2018 announced Rs 3,660 crore National Mission on Cyber-Physical Systems, which is being executed through 25 hubs. But it is not clear what kind of milestones have been achieved in the five-year mission, which should end in December 2023.

(Published 19 April 2023, 11:35 IST)

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