DARPA selects three companies for potential five-year quantum computing program

By Audrey Decker / January 31, 2023 at 2:59 PM

As the Pentagon searches for emerging technologies to keep pace with its adversaries, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has partnered with three companies to scale quantum computing at a speed beyond previous predictions.

Atom Computing, Microsoft and PsiQuantum have been selected to explore new approaches to designing quantum computers, according to an agency announcement today.

Envisioned as a five-year program with four phases, DARPA’s “Underexplored Systems for Utility-Scale Quantum Computing” effort seeks to discover if a new approach could scale quantum computers faster than initial forecasts.

“Experts disagree on whether a utility-scale quantum computer based on conventional designs is still decades away or could be achieved much sooner,” said Joe Altepeter, DARPA’s US2QC program manager.

“We put out a call last year saying that if anyone thought they had a truly revolutionary approach to building a useful quantum computer in the near future -- less than 10 years -- we wanted to hear from them,” Altepeter said in a statement.

For the initial phase, the three companies will present design concepts for building a utility-scale quantum computer. After which, a DARPA-led team will test and evaluate the concepts.

Quantum computing is a Pentagon-wide priority, as Defense Department technology chief Heidi Shyu has noted it as one of her top priorities for the Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve, which seeks to fill capability gaps by investing in projects that have applicability across the joint force.