Quantum Computing Research: India’s quantum computing research needs a boost

With the union government’s ambitious Rs 6,000 crore National Quantum Mission to support the research and development of quantum technologies and applications, the state of quantum technology R&D in the country and how we compare with others has come to the fore.
A recent report by Itihaasa, a nonprofit co-founded by Kris Gopalakrishnan, shows that India lags when it comes to publishing research papers on quantum technologies.
Data analysis shows leading educational institutes and national labs in India have published 1,711 research papers on various quantum technologies between 2000 and 2018, ranking 10th globally. This pales in comparison to the US which ranks 1st with 13,489 papers and China which ranks 2nd with 12,100 papers.
If only the top 10% of most cited papers are considered, then the US ranks first, China third, and India twentieth.
On the patents front, Itihaasa’s analysis, based on machine learning, shows India stands at 9th with 339 patents in quantum technologies. China leads the pack with 23,335 patents, and the US stands 2nd with 8,935 patents to its kitty.
N Dayasindhu, co-founder and chief executive of Itihaasa Research and Digital, said since the technology is in the developmental stage, and India has renewed its focus with the National Quantum Mission, it is possible for us to catch up.
But he said the country’s quantum research should assess the local needs of the country and make sure the average citizen benefits from it. “Our focus should address the needs of the population -like finding treatment for a disease which may not be attractive for other countries,” he said.
Dayasindu said the National Quantum Mission should prioritise building an ecosystem that includes constructing physical experimental facilities and labs, alongside training students and attracting global talent to jumpstart research and development in the country. “We have to ensure the research translational gap is plugged with the development of devices and products and licensing IPs.”
He also stressed the need for central experimental facilities with lithography equipment for fabrication and testing centres.

How India compares with top players

Bijoy Krishna Das, chief investigator of silicon photonics centre of excellence (CoE-CPPICS), said India is quickly catching up by learning from the existing scientific literature. He stressed the need for technical know-how in building quantum technologies for India to be a serious player in the field. “Tomorrow if the technology is ready, we still need foundries for fabricating devices and testing them. We are working with Malaysia-based semiconductor foundry SilTerra.”
Das also said that a multi-disciplinary research approach is crucial in the field of quantum technologies. “Putting people together from different competencies to work, making a plan together, and creating an ecosystem are all challenges, but nevertheless needs to be done.”
Sunil Gupta, co-founder and CEO of Qnu labs, a Bengaluru-based quantum cryptography startup, said he faced numerous difficulties in his early days when he founded the company in 2016. He said his initial job was evangelisation of the technology itself, rather than bringing commercial products to the market and thinking about product-market fit.
The company now has three product offerings in quantum cybersecurity and works with government agencies like the Army and Navy, along with telecommunication and financial service companies and banks. They also have seven patents in the field of quantum technologies and are awaiting approval for a dozen more.
Sunil Gupta said the demand for quantum-based cybersecurity products is coming from enterprises, apart from governmental agencies, and puts the quantum-based cybersecurity market size at $200 million in India, based on a study commissioned by the startup.


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