Colorado-based tech hub’s bid to be “Silicon Valley” quantum boosted

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Colorado is closer to becoming the center of the nation’s quantum technology universe with the award of $40.5 million in federal money, which will leverage $77 million in state commitments and ultimately could mean roughly $1 billion more in federal dollars for the region.

The Economic Development Administration in the U.S. Department of Commerce announced the award of the money Tuesday to Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, named in 2023 as one of two regional hubs for advancing and commercializing quantum technology. An additional $10 million will come from New Mexico.

The field, expected to galvanize the development of artificial intelligence, is predicted to generate trillions of dollars in value. The Colorado-based Elevate Quantum consortium submitted the application for the designation as a hub and was competing with the Chicago Quantum Exchange to be recognized as the country’s Silicon Valley of quantum technology.

The Chicago Quantum Exchange wasn’t among the 12 tech hubs included in the round of $504 million in funding announced by the Economic Development Administration.

“This really in a very special way puts our entire region on the map,” Zachary Yerushalmi, CEO of Elevate Quantum, said of Colorado’s inclusion.

Gov. Jared Polis cheered the news. “We won. Yes!”

The state and federal monies will solidify Colorado’s leadership in the quantum space and help ensure that the state is the center for the “technology, for implementation, for the jobs that are emerging rapidly,” Polis said.

The state’s investment includes $44 million in refundable tax credits to help finance a shared research facility and $30 million for a program to provide greater access to capital for small and medium-size companies. Another $3 million was earmarked by the Colorado Economic Development Commission for federally designated tech hubs.

Making Colorado a global hub for quantum technology is projected to generate more than $1 billion in economic impacts and create more than 10,000 jobs, according to a statement from the governor’s office.

The decision by the federal Economic Development Administration recognizes the central role the region occupies in the field, Yerushalmi said. About 3,000 people work in the commercial quantum arena in Colorado and about another 1,000 are scientists working on the technology, he said.

“That’s 60 times the size of Chicago. By fundraising, we’re about 100 times the size of Chicago,” Yerushalmi said.

The University of Colorado-Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder has been a stronghold of quantum research for decades. Four scientists affiliated with CU-Boulder have won the Nobel Prize in Physics for advancements in the science field.

Elevate Quantum’s 120 members include some of the world’s largest quantum companies; research universities; and federal laboratories such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.

In May, the U.S. National Science Foundation announced a $20 million grant for CU-Boulder to build a facility called the National Quantum Nanofab, where researchers and specialists will be able to design and build small devices that tap into subatomic particles. The technologies produced could include quantum computer chips that would perform faster than the fastest computers today.

The technology could also be applied to health care and medical research, energy, manufacturing and environmental monitoring.

“Colorado is the Silicon Valley for quantum today and our job as an organization and as an ecosystem is to keep it as a Silicon Valley for generations,” Yerushalmi said.

Elevate Quantum was one of 31 applicates selected from 400 in 2023 in the first phase of the federal tech hubs program. The program was authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act and was designed to drive innovation and create jobs across different regions. The areas the designated hubs focus on include quantum computing, clean energy, semiconductor manufacturing and biotechnology.

Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet said in a statement that Congress passed the CHIPS and Science Act to revive the country’s manufacturing capacity and renew its commitment to cutting-edge research and development. “This funding makes it clear that Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West are at the core of America’s quantum future,” the Democrat said.

Yerushalmi said the state and federal money will be used to build a lab on about 40 acres along the Front Range where people can use equipment and components for a fraction of the cost charged in the marketplace. He said that will allow people to proceed from ideas to testing to scaling up operations “faster than you can anywhere else.”

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