Economy

₹8,000-cr quantum tech fund set for launch by August

Ayushi Kar Mumbai | Updated on June 10, 2021

Funding from the government for burgeoning quantum technologies start-ups is necessary   -  istock.com/NatalyaBurova

To focus on quantum communication, simulation, and sensing and meteorology

The ₹8,000-crore quantum technologies fund announced by the Budget in February 2020 is expected to be launched by August.

Senior officials in the Department of Science and Technology told BusinessLine that the National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications (NM-QTA) is under process for final approvals as the overall integrated roadmap for the mission involves several Ministries.

Covid impact

Over the past year, the launch date has been pushed back citing Covid troubles, pending approval for its detailed project report outlining the mission statement and other budgetary approvals.

The latest updates regarding NM-QTA on the DST website state that as of March 2021, action points on budget sourcing were still awaiting approval from the Department of Expenditure.

When connected, KR Murali, Scientist-G & Head, Frontier & Futuristic Technologies Division, DST, told BusinessLine that “NM-QTA is under process for final approvals as the overall integrated roadmap for the Mission involving several Ministries — MeitY, DRDO, ISRO, CSIR, etc is being finalised. However, DST has already initiated R&D projects under a scheme called Quantum Enabled Science & Technology at a total cost of ₹182 crore for three years and in addition, also established a Quantum Technology Innovation Hub at IISER Pune at a total cost of ₹170 crore for five years. All these activities will be subsumed into NM-QTA Mission after it is formally launched.”

When asked about the delay, he added “The Mission involves capturing the vision and aspirations of various stakeholders which takes time in a new area. Now, the Detailed Project Report (DPR) is ready, and accordingly the mission approval process has been initiated.”

Focus areas

The DST contends that the five-year timeline that was previously promised for the Mission will commence only once the approval process is complete. The project aims to focus on four key areas — quantum communication, quantum simulation, quantum computation and quantum sensing and meteorology.

According to Anil Prabhakar, Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT Madras, who is leading the Institute’s collaborations in quantum technology with IBM, “The funding is expected to drive innovation in both science and technology, improve manpower training and encourage a start-up ecosystem in quantum science & technology.”

Insiders in the quantum computing start-up ecosystem, however, contend that the focus in granting funds is generally towards research and development rather than at the start-up/enterprise level.

Nagendra Nagaraja, Founder, and CEO of quantum computing start-up QpiAI, said: “Delay in the approval of the mission will not affect much, as long as funds are getting deployed effectively to enable quantum computing technology in India. Funds should be given to both high-quality start-ups and academia. It should not be limited to either one of them.”

Funding for start-ups

According to Abhishek Chopra, Founder & CEO of BosonQ Psi, a quantum computing SaaS-based enterprise, funding from the government for burgeoning quantum technologies start-ups is necessary.

“At the moment investor interest in quantum technologies, especially quantum computing is extremely limited. In this scenario, it becomes hard for start-ups to invest into core R&D and hire the immense tech talent that India has to offer,” Chopra said, adding that investment into quantum technologies in India is necessary.

Rohini Srivathsa, National Technology Officer, Microsoft India, said quantum has the potential to disrupt how we think about computing and to solve some of the toughest challenges the world faces today, whether in agriculture, healthcare or climate change.

“For India to leverage the full potential of quantum computing, we need to accelerate R&D, technology development, skilling, and invest in building a strong industry ecosystem in the country.”

Published on June 10, 2021

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