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India still has a long way to go in terms of quantum capabilities.

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India still has a long way to go in terms of quantum capabilities.
In terms of publications in prestigious journals and patents acquired in the field of quantum technology, India lagged much behind the US and China.

A new assessment of India’s potential in quantum technologies has revealed that, while the country made the right decision in launching the Rs 6,000 crore National Quantum Mission to develop some of the most sought-after technologies for the future, it would still need to close the sizable gap between its capabilities and those of other leading nations in these fields, such as China and the United States.

According to an evaluation by Itihaasa, a non-profit organization that tracks the nation’s technological and business developments, India is only one of 17 nations with a government program specifically designed to support quantum technology research, and one of only 12 that has made distinct investments in this area. However, a few nations were far ahead of India in terms of both their present capabilities and the amount of money dedicated to research and development.

Over a five-year period, India’s Rs 6,000 crore is equivalent to around USD 0.75 billion. However, it was predicted that China would invest USD 15 billion in the development of quantum technology. The countries with the highest amounts are the United States ($3.75), Germany ($3.3 billion), South Korea ($2.35 billion), and the United Kingdom ($4.3 billion).

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In terms of publications in prestigious journals and patents acquired in the field of quantum technology, India lagged much behind the US and China.

It is praiseworthy that India is one of the top 12 nations in terms of committed investments and one of the 17 nations having official national quantum missions. The evaluation stated, “At the same time, we must acknowledge that India is falling behind the world leaders in quantum technologies and needs to step up both R&D and translational aspects to catch up with them.”

By taking use of the incredibly strange and counterintuitive, yet incredibly unique qualities of subatomic particles like an electron, quantum technologies are able to create devices and processes with capacities and efficiencies that are not achievable with classical, non-quantum systems. For example, a quantum computer may complete tasks that a conventional computer, no matter how quick or powerful, would not be able to complete in a time that is practical.

When quantum technologies reach maturity, they will likely disrupt nearly every industry. However, computers, communications, encryption, cybersecurity, and healthcare are some of the industries that stand to benefit the most and be affected the quickest. The majority of technologies are still in the research stage, and scientists need to fully regulate how subatomic particles behave in order to extract valuable work.

Launched last year, India’s National Quantum Mission seeks to advance capabilities in four domains: communications, sensors and metrology (the science of measurements), materials, and quantum computing.

In around five years, India has a very real potential of becoming a global leader in at least two of these areas—communications and sensing, according to Abhay Karandikar, Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology, which is carrying out the quantum mission.

“We already possess quite sophisticated skills in both domains (sensing and quantum communications). Even a couple of our start-ups are producing excellent work. We ought to be in the lead globally with a little prodding. Other technologies might require far more labor from us, such as quantum computing. But in none of these areas are we beginning at zero. We would be in the top five, 10, or fifteen wherever, he declared.

Ajay Sood, Principal Scientific Advisor, stated that there was not an insurmountable divide between India and other developed nations.

We might lag behind by a year in certain places. We might lag four or five years in certain instances. We are on par with the world’s top in some areas. Sood stated, “The fruits of these technologies are going to be transformational, so we have to work hard for the next few years.”

According to the evaluation report, there are currently 110–145 Indian primary investigators working at key institutes and institutions on quantum technologies. They were collaborating with between 75 and 100 postdocs and 300 and 400 PhD students. There were also between fifty and one hundred MTech students studying various aspects of quantum technologies.

According to the study, India was, incidentally, producing the greatest number of graduates in fields linked to quantum technologies. These comprised courses in mathematics, statistics, physics, chemistry, biochemistry, electronics, and chemical engineering. Each year, more than 82,000 students receive their diplomas in these fields. The only region with a larger student population in these categories was the European Union as a whole.

According to the evaluation, “these graduates will still need focused training on various aspects of quantum technologies to make them a relevant workforce in the field.”

It recommended that the government look into the idea of supporting a special science and technology cadre, like the ones in India’s space and nuclear sectors, in each of the four domains designated for the National Quantum Mission.

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