What is Russia doing in the quantum world



* Written by Mariana Gonzalez, specialist in Scientific Computing, School of Exact and Natural Sciences, UBA (Arg.). MBA, ITBA.




6 minutes read

Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Maxim Akimov, announced last December an investment of almost $ 800 million for quantum technology research over the next five years, in major Russian laboratories. The goal is to build a quantum computer for practical uses and, thus, try to reach those who are far ahead in this “quantum career.”

The US and China lead these developments, investing large amounts of money. As well as the Germans. But most of all, the big American tech companies (Google, IBM, Microsoft, Intel) are the big investors and the ones who are further advanced in quantum computing. The Chinese, with their companies Huawei, Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu are in communications and quantum cryptography.

The Russians are not even named, for now in the shadow of China. China, through Huawei, is installing 5G networks in Russia and providing them with smartphones; Furthermore, complementation agreements are also being made where China includes Russian scientists in its AI (artificial intelligence) projects.

To Russia, the very low investments in the subject and the exodus of scientists in search of support and better wages and conditions, did not allow it to take off despite the fact that the initiative started in the nineties and was redefined in the two thousand. Will this be a new announcement that won’t fulfil?

Quantum physics is from the early twentieth century. Max Planck in 1900, Einstein in 1905 are the great milestones of what is known as Old Quantum Theory. Only in the mid-twentieth century were the first technological advances based on that science known: lasers, atomic clocks. Currently, based on what in physics is called quantum entanglement, devices for communication, computing, cryptography and quantum detection are being developed, which will change the world and our way of life.

National states must provide the essential basis to facilitate the stage between the laboratory and the commercialization of developments in these new technologies. Meaning, specifically, funds, legislation, norms and standards, regulation and control.

According to the publication “Quantum Science and Technology”, lay aside the US and China, the situation of the leading countries in research and development of quantum technology is:

Europe: In 2019, the “Quantum Flagship” Project began, with an investment of € 1 billion, over ten years for projects in quantum communications, computing and simulation. Moreover, it has an important group of institutions dedicated to studying the next generation of disruptive technologies based on the quantum world.

Japan: since the end of the 1980s, has been doing research in the quantum world, starting with semiconductor circuits and ending with the development of the computer over the span of five years. In 2018 it began the new phase of research and development. Several government agencies fund all these developments. The Japan Science and Technology Agency dedicates $ 37 million over ten years for quantum inertia sensor technologies and the same for ultra high precision time measurement technologies. The Cabinet Office of Governance (a group that combines government ministries) allocates $ 300 million per year to quantum and photonic technology projects for the needs of what they call a 5.0 society.

Canada: In the last decade has invested $ 1 trillion, which facilitated the community between the private sector and the government to locate the country in a solid position in terms of innovation and competitiveness, achieve a level of excelleny in research and a quantum industrial base. Canada has 4% of the global technology market and is expected to capture a larger share in the next decade reaching 8% in this field, given its research and industrial capability.

Great Britain: invested more than £ 1 trillion in a coordinated private-state program in quantum technology. Five years working so far and has allowed to increase its participation in the field of these technologies, from sensors and communication networks to a National Center for Quantum Computing.

Australia: it had sustained support from all areas of government and an industrial park that allowed him to go from a single quantum technology company to a spectrum of businesses that cover both basic equipment and software. Even, Microsoft invested many tens of millions of dollars at the University of Sydney for quantum engineering research.
And finally,

Russia: it has defined a five-year plan for the development of quantum technologies as part of the National Digital Economy Program. Future users of government agencies, financial institutions and various industries have pushed for the development of quantum technology. Especially, Rosatom, Rostec, Rostelecom, Bank of Russia, Gazprombank, Sberbank and others. Gazprombank has dedicated an annual budget of approximately € 1.4 million, Rosatom is responsible for quantum computing, Russian Railways (RzhD) is responsible for quantum communications, and Rostec is responsible for quantum detection and metrology.

The Soviet Union stood out in both Pure and Applied Sciences. The USSR made science and technology part of its ideology, national priority, one of the least censored areas, granting privileges and recognition to their scientists. The development of nuclear physics, astronomy, mathematics, chemistry gave the USSR a place of privilege, several Nobel prizes, and a dreaded geopolitical stage.

Few years before the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and pluunged in the economic and institutional debacle that afflicted them, science and technology ceded their place of importance and ceased to be appreciated as national pride.

Today’s Russia is now totally absent from the main technology centers. President Putin expresses in his speeches his desire to be part of the technological leadership again.

Nowadays, Applied Quantum Mechanics, among a few other disciplines, is the technology leadership.

The geopolitical interest and need to belong to the small world of countries with such expertise, the national broadband experience and the financial support of the government and industry can position quantum technology in the Russian Federation to actually grow in the next five years, if Russians’ declamation do not remain in just that… declamations.


Mariana Gonzalez
Scientific Computing, School of Exact and Natural Sciences, UBA
Businesswoman in Argentina and Uruguay in tech companies