Officials hail Rome Lab’s foray into quantum technology

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Rome Lab’s key role in quantum technology research was praised by a Pentagon official during a two-day event aimed at enhancing small businesses’ involvement in the initiative.

Quantum technology is “one of those potential game-changers,” said Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, during a keynote session Monday for the virtual quantum collider pitch event.

“What we hope to do...the Air Force and the Space Force, with Rome Lab leading the way, is put year-after-year routine demand, routine challenges...routine funding to bring Q-Day, the day we get that quantum technology over the goal line and into the warfighter’s hands...where we bring that early,” said Roper.

Earlier in the session after Congressman Anthony Brindisi spoke about the importance of research for quantum development and the funding to support it, Roper said “I applaud you for thinking ahead and making sure that all quantum roads lead to Rome...and really appreciate all the work the lab is doing in your district.” Rome Lab, based at Griffiss park, is formally known as the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Information Directorate.

Roper was among several speakers at the event, which included small businesses in private 20-minute pitch sessions with senior officials for novel approaches to advance quantum-enabling technology and/or applications. The AFRL program called for awarding up to 36 contracts and up to $5.4 million to small businesses in this phase of the initiative.

The results for the event which concluded Tuesday included 35 contracts totaling $5.25 million being awarded to 23 companies from nine states, according to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, which is headquarters for the overall AFRL. Among the New York companies were SeeQC, Inc. of Elmsford, and Qunnect LLC, of Stonybrook.

Companies, who had submitted applications, gave pitches to a panel including Air Force end-users, Air Force major commands, program offices and the AFRL. The topics included exploring quantum timing, sensing, information processing/computing, and communication/networking.

Quantum technology is considered an emerging field of physics and engineering, which relies on principles of quantum physics. Among potential impacts for Air Force capabilities that have been cited by Rome Lab Deputy Director Michael Hayduk: GPS-like precision in locations where there is no GPS signal or it is severely degraded; ultra-secure global communication networks; high-precision sensors linked together with a quantum network; new computing paradigms for optimization of asset and resource allocations, discovery of new materials, and novel applications of artificial intelligence.

Brindisi, D-22, Utica, noted an Open Innovation Campus and a Quantum Information Science Innovation Center are being developed in Rome in conjunction with the lab. He mentioned the importance to bring together small business, industry, and academia with Department of Defense labs for “faster and more efficient development of quantum technology.”

Rome Lab Director Col. Timothy Lawrence said this week’s event will hopefully be a “step in the right direction” for giving the Air Force and the nation what is needed regarding quantum development. Besides the funding decisions at this week’s event, he said there will be an additional $35 million available in an upcoming second phase of the process.

Other Rome Lab speakers besides Lawrence and Hayduk included Branch Chief Steven Johns and SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) /STTR (Small Business Technology Transfer) Program Manager Denise Lee. Among other speakers: John Preskill, Feynman Endowed Chair at California Institute of Technology; AFRL Executive Director Jack Blackhurst; Air Force SBIR/STTR Program Director David Shahady; Joseph Broz, AFRL Senior Advisor for Quantum; New York State Technology Enterprise Corporation (NYSTEC) Innovation and Entrepreneurship Manager Evan DeGennaro; Daniel Madden, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director at the National Security Innovation Network.

Master of ceremonies for the virtual event was NYSTEC Director Mark Romano.

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