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Rs 6,000-crore National Quantum Mission gets Union Cabinet approval

This could provide a fillip for Indian firms pursuing R&D in quantum computing, such as TCS, IBM, and Tech Mahindra, among others

Quantum Entanglement

The programme will look to develop intermediate scale quantum computers with 50-1000 physical qubits in eight years in various platforms like superconducting and photonic technology

Shivani ShindeSourabh Lele Mumbai/New Delhi

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The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the National Quantum Mission (NQM) with a total outlay of Rs 6,003.65 crore for the period 2023-24 to 2030-31 to scale up research and development and create an innovative ecosystem in quantum technology in the country. 

The programme was approved after a delay of two years — the government first announced it in the 2020 Budget, with a commitment of about Rs 8,000 crore then.

The programme will be implemented by the Department of Science and Technology in partnership with others. With this, India will join a league of six nations that have been developing R&D capabilities in quantum computing — the USA, China, Finland, Austria, France, and Canada.

Quantum computers use quantum bits, or qubits, and are faster than regular and supercomputers, which use conventional bits. For instance, according to reports, Google’s quantum processor, Sycamore, in 2019 completed a task in 200 seconds that Google claimed, in a Nature paper, would take a state-of-the-art supercomputer 10,000 years to finish.

Over the next three years, the government will look to create at least 20-50 qubits of computers and also cover 2,000 kms of multi-node quantum network, said Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting Anurag Thakur at a press briefing.

Experts say in a country like India, where the government uses technology to solve problems at scale, quantum computing could be a big boost, as it allows for large-scale simulations.

According to a Nasscom-Avasant Research report, there are nearly 100 government supported projects related to quantum and allied technologies. The adoption of quantum technologies across industries could potentially add $280-310 billion of value to the Indian economy by 2030, said the report. 

The programme will look to develop intermediate scale quantum computers with 50-1000 physical qubits in eight years in various platforms like superconducting and photonic technology. Satellite-based secure quantum communications between ground stations over a range of 2,000 kilometres within India, long distance secure quantum communications with other countries, inter-city quantum key distribution over 2,000 km, as well as multi-node quantum network with quantum memories are also some of the deliverables of the mission.

As part of the mission, four thematic hubs (T-Hubs) will be set up at top academic and national R&D institutes — quantum computing, quantum communication, quantum sensing and metrology, and quantum materials and devices.

The move was welcomed by the tech industry. This could provide a fillip for Indian firms pursuing R&D in quantum computing, such as TCS, IBM, and Tech Mahindra, among others.

Kartik Ganapathy, founding partner, IndusLaw, said: “India’s entrée to the world was the supply of a vast number of talented computer engineers that helped deal with the Y2K shift. By acknowledging and embracing the need for development and focusing on quantum technology by creating a framework to allow its development India is showing its willingness to lead on a global scale.”

Indian institutes have already begun dabbling with R&D on quantum computing. Last year, IIT Madras became the first institute from India to join IBM’s Quantum Network. It will get cloud-based access to IBM’s most advanced quantum computing systems and expertise.
Quantum leap
  • Mission aims to nurture and scale up scientific and industrial R&D in quantum technology
  • India is seventh country to have a dedicated quantum mission after the US, Austria, Finland, France, Canada and China
  • Target is to develop intermediate-scale quantum computers with 50-1,000 physical qubits in eight years
  • Four thematic hubs to be set up in top academic and R&D institutes

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First Published: Apr 19 2023 | 9:16 PM IST

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