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Research Questions

  1. Which countries, beyond the United States and China, are the most highly engaged in R&D of quantum technology?
  2. How much international collaboration is taking place?
  3. Are there important differences in the structure of U.S.-allied nations' quantum industrial bases?
  4. How could policymakers strengthen collaboration between the United States and its allies in this area?

The U.S. government has identified quantum technology as important for future U.S. economic prosperity and national security because it could eventually offer groundbreaking new capabilities in information collection, processing, and communication. RAND researchers had previously developed a set of metrics for holistically assessing a nation's industrial base in quantum technology and had applied those metrics to the industrial bases of the United States and China. For this report, the authors used a similar methodology to assess the quantum industrial bases of several other nations. The report begins with a broad look at the entire global quantum ecosystem, and then focuses in more detail on Australia, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom (UK). The authors considered four categories of metrics: scientific research, government support, industry activity, and technical achievement. Whenever possible, they assessed the metrics separately across the three technology application domains of quantum computing, quantum communications, and quantum sensing. The report concludes with recommendations for how policymakers could strengthen international collaboration in quantum technology research and development (R&D) between the United States and its allied nations.

Key Findings

  • Both universities and private companies are engaging in extensive international collaboration in quantum technology R&D between the United States and allied nations.
  • Other than the United States and China, Germany and the UK are the two nations with the highest output of scientific research in each of the three main quantum technology application domains. Japan is one of the next two nations in each application domain.
  • Germany and the UK are the U.S.-allied nations with the highest government investment in quantum technology R&D. (However, the Netherlands invests a higher proportion of its gross domestic product in government funding for quantum technology R&D than either Germany or the UK does.)
  • Japan has the highest level of patenting in each of the three application domains.
  • The cutting edge of quantum technology is rapidly shifting from open research institutions to private industry, and it is becoming more difficult to determine the technical state of the art from nonproprietary sources.
  • Many nations have announced ambitious plans to develop their own quantum computers domestically over the next few years.
  • The quantum industrial bases of Australia, the UK, Germany, and Japan each have distinct organizational structures and focuses.
  • Australia, Germany, Japan, and the UK each engage in significant scientific collaboration with, and receive significant research funding from, both U.S. and Chinese organizations.
  • In one technical area—silicon-spin-qubit quantum computing—other nations are arguably ahead of both the United States and China.
  • U.S.-allied nations provide various key components in the quantum technology supply chain.

Recommendations

  • Focus quantum technology R&D collaboration with U.S.-allied nations in areas where the nations' technical strengths complement those of the United States.
  • Leverage the complementary organizational aspects of the quantum industrial bases of the United States and its allies.
  • Identify and monitor critical component and material suppliers based in U.S.-allied nations.
  • Identify and monitor potential sources of technology leakage in allies' funding and collaboration networks.
  • Organize a recurring multilateral meeting of quantum technology experts from leading U.S. and ally governments to facilitate information-sharing and planning.

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering and conducted within the Acquisition and Technology Policy Program of the RAND National Security Research Division.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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