National Quantum Strategy for Canada | Open Letter
As members of the quantum science & technology community in Canada, we want to express our gratitude to those who have taken the lead in developing and presenting the case for a Quantum Strategy for Canada, and to express our readiness to contribute our efforts to helping perfect and defend this strategy.
Given the compressed timeframe between the June 18th meeting in Ottawa and the time at which the Quantum Strategy Recommendationsmust be presented to government, we feel it is important to share some concerns we have in advance. We hope these concerns will be taken into account as this process moves forward. We express them in this letter because despite the efforts we know the working group has taken, we are not certain that the present committees (particularly the executive/strategy committee) are in a position to fully capture the perspective of the strong and vibrant scientific community working in quantum information and related fields across the country. In fact, the process by which committee membership has been determined was far from transparent, and we urge the committees to strive (to the extent possible) to keep the next stages of this process less opaque to the community at large. As those on the committees are aware, there has been concern as to whether the Recommendations will represent the breadth of Canadian research and the community’s best advice as to a strategy to ensure Canada’s continuing dominance in the quantum sectors. While many important stakeholders are represented on the committees as they stand so far, it appears that on the one hand, certain fields (such as photonics, and quantum cryptography/communications) have remained under-represented relative to their importance in the sector and strength in Canada; and on the other that some universities with little presence in quantum information have been given disproportionate representation at the expense of universities such as Toronto, Calgary, McGill and Ottawa, but not at the expense of Waterloo and Sherbrooke, for instance. This imbalance is especially striking on the executive committee, where there are 3 representatives from Waterloo (including Quantum Valley) and 1 from McMaster, but not a single one from Toronto (including CDL), the second-largest contributor to the Canadian quantum space according to Rob Dunlop’s report.
Moving forward, we urge the committees to ensure that the strategy they put forward recognizes the breadth and needs of the actual Canadian quantum community, both in terms of the types of initiatives which would be of value (whether endowed chairs, postdoctoral fellowships, support of students and operating expenses, equipment grants, or infrastructure and shared national facilities) and in terms of the subfields which are central to this Strategy (which should include not only quantum information theory, quantum cryptography/communications, and architectures for quantum computation, but quantum metrology and advanced technologies for quantum sensing, quantum simulation, and basic science from foundations to quantum materials). In particular, it must recognize the strengths of the existing community in quantum-information theory, photonics, quantum materials, quantum communications, quantum control, and the foundations of quantum mechanics. To this end, we recommend that the committees be enlarged to better represent the diversity of the Canadian quantum community.
We also stress that the Recommendations should reaffirm support for the Naylor Report, and in particular the essential role of NSERC Discovery Grant funding for Canadian research. Additional funds for a quantum strategy must not come at the expense of the already over-burdened DG budget.
We look forward to remaining engaged with the working group as it evolves, at the June 18th meeting and beyond. We believe that the Canadian quantum community has an excellent opportunity to offer a stronger Quantum Strategy for Canada to thrive in science, technology, economy and security preparedness of the country moving forward.