Chicago Quantum Exchange Annual Report Highlights 2022 Growth

Former President Barack Obama speaks to a group of South Side Chicago high schoolers at a Chicago Quantum Exchange mock voting event in October 2022. These high schoolers were the first members of the U.S. public to use ultra-secure quantum technology, as part of a demonstration using a 124-mile Chicago region quantum network that the CQE community extended and activated in 2022.

The Chicago Quantum Exchange (CQE) continued to expand its diverse community of quantum researchers, leaders, and institutions in 2022—launching a quantum research fellowship for undergraduates, welcoming 11 new corporate partners, and extending a regional quantum communication network to a total length of 124 miles.  

These are among the successes highlighted in the CQE’s newly published annual report, which chronicles the many contributions of the consortium’s members and partners and offers a window into the region’s continuing shift from local quantum powerhouse to national quantum economy. 

Empowering the next generation of quantum scientists  

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are a cornerstone of the region’s growing quantum ecosystem, and last summer the new Open Quantum Initiative Undergraduate Fellowship welcomed 12 students from underrepresented backgrounds to CQE institutions to pursue quantum research projects and work one-on-one with mentors.  

The fellowship program—which will almost double in size in 2023, thanks to generous funding from the Moore Foundation—seeks to make the expanding quantum workforce a more diverse and inclusive community, an essential part of fostering innovation and building a sustainable ecosystem. Almost 70% of the inaugural fellows were Hispanic, Latino, or Black, and half were the first in their family to go to college.  

They presented their results at the first-ever OQI Undergraduate Research Symposium, which was attended by a number of corporate representatives, and several fellows will be returning to work with CQE companies this summer.  

Growing our quantum community 

The CQE added new corporate partners, bringing its total to 40, and helped host a number of workshops and seminars in the U.S., Switzerland, and France.   

Its fifth-annual Chicago Quantum Summit drew 500 in-person and virtual attendees from 19 countries as industry leaders, US government officials, university presidents, and national laboratory directors discussed the future of the field. 

“I believe that the future of quantum computing is going to run squarely through the universities and laboratories you see partnered here, and it’s going to run squarely through the state of Illinois and the city of Chicago,” Robert Jones, chancellor of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said at the event. 

Expanding our research capabilities 

The Chicago-region optical fiber quantum network expanded in 2022 to a total length of 124 miles—making it one of the largest ground-based quantum communication testbeds in the nation. Researchers from Toshiba Corporation and Argonne National Lab have already begun experiments on the network, and local Chicago high schoolers were the first members of the U.S. public to use the technology.  

“The Chicago quantum network presents researchers with unprecedented opportunities to transmit quantum information in a real-world environment and push the boundaries of what is currently possible with quantum security protocols,” said David Awschalom, the Liew Family Professor in Molecular Engineering and Physics at the University of Chicago, director of the Chicago Quantum Exchange, and director of Q-NEXT, a Department of Energy National Quantum Information Science Research Center at Argonne.  

Fostering the local quantum economy 

A growing array of support for entrepreneurs has played an important role in nurturing and attracting quantum companies to the region. In April 2022, Duality, the first accelerator program in the nation that is exclusively dedicated to startup companies focused on quantum science and technology, announced its second cohort of five startups.  

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker welcomed the cohort to “the nation’s preeminent research corridor in the field” and called it “yet another testament to the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois’ leadership in this sector.” 

Duality—which is led by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago and the CQE, along with founding partners, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Argonne National Laboratory, and P33—has now accelerated 11 quantum startup companies, four of which joined the CQE this year as official corporate partners. (The application deadline for third cohort is on March 31, 2023).  

Quantum hardware company EeroQ also opened new lab headquarters in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood in 2022 at a ribbon-cutting event attended by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. 

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