The Indian government has approved the National Quantum Mission, which aims to strengthen the country’s local research and development ecosystem. With a total cost of INR 6,003.65 Cr, the Mission will span eight years, from the financial year 2023-24 to 2030-31.
This move makes India the sixth country in the world to have a dedicated quantum mission, joining Austria, Finland, the US, France, and China.
According to the government, the Mission will provide a significant boost to the local startup ecosystem, complementing existing schemes such as Startup India, Make in India, Stand-up India, Skill India, and Digital India. The Mission is also expected to benefit sectors such as communication, health, financial and energy, as well as drug design and space applications.
Under the Mission, the government plans to establish four thematic hubs (T-Hubs) in top academic and R&D institutes. These hubs will promote research and generate new knowledge in specific domains, such as quantum computing, quantum communication, quantum sensing and metrology, and quantum materials and devices.
The Mission aims to develop intermediate-scale quantum computers with 50-1000 physical qubits on platforms such as superconducting and photonic technology in the next eight years. The programme will also spur the development of indigenous magnetometers, atomic clocks, single photon detectors, and entangled photon sources for communications, sensing, and navigation.
Among other things, the Mission will support the design and synthesis of quantum materials such as superconductors and novel semiconductor structures. Some of the deliverables of the Mission include satellite-based secure quantum communications between ground stations over a range of 2000 kilometres within India, long-distance secure quantum communications with other countries, and inter-city quantum key distribution over 2000 km.
Quantum computing is a new paradigm of computing that can effectively and efficiently process big and complex datasets. Compared to traditional computing, quantum computers store information in the form of quantum bits, qubits, which can have values of ‘0’, ‘1’ or a value which can be both 0 and 1 at the same time. Experts predict that quantum computers could have applications in a range of fields, including health and communication.
The latest development comes nearly three years after an INR 8,000 Cr National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications was announced in Budget 2020 over a period of five years. The space is still in its nascent stage in India, with IT giants such as TCS, Infosys, and Tech Mahindra conducting experiments and building viable use cases in multiple areas.
The space has also spawned off startups such as QT-powered SaaS platform BosonQ Psi, quantum communications platform Qulabs, quantum cryptography startup QNu Labs, among others.