Investing in sophisticated quantum labs and research centres will be crucial. Credit: Subhra Priyadarshini

India recently announced the National Quantum Mission (NQM) to ramp up quantum computing and communications, quantum sensing and quantum materials and devices.

Quantum computing uses quantum mechanics such as superposition, interference, and entanglement to execute computational tasks at an exponential rate compared to classical computers, making them useful for applications such as optimisation, machine learning and simulation.

The NQM will open opportunities for quantum education and prepare students and teachers to use and innovate in quantum technology. Universities in other countries such as the US and Australia already offer such programmes.

‘Quantum ready’ signifies an organization, system, or software capable of using quantum-based algorithms to their advantage in complex computations.

This also needs to be backed by policies to help build quantum technology within these ecosystems, for example, developing novel quantum algorithms, constructing quantum-secure cryptographic methods and training staff.

How can Indian universities become quantum ready?

India has ambitions of becoming a technology superpower. The country's growing interest in artificial intelligence (AI) is a case in point, with several universities, start-ups and private ventures at the forefront of innovation in machine learning and deep learning algorithms.

India has set the ball rolling in quantum education. The Indian Institute of Technology Madras recently launched an advanced course in quantum computing technology with quantum algorithms and programming of quantum computers. The Chatterjee Group (TCG) ― Centres for Research and Education in Science and Technology (CREST), is building India’s first quantum computer in association with the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and Indian Institute of Science Bengaluru. Several quantum computing startups such as Globally Xanadu, Classiq, QRDLab and are training educational institutes and industries to build the quantum workforce in the country.

However, India faces a talent shortage and a skill gap in the quantum technology sector. This may be due to a lack of general awareness about potential career and business opportunities in the field. Many universities do not yet have experts in quantum computing, partly due to inadequate training resources and cutting-edge laboratories for hands-on learning experience. Very few universities like IIT Madras and IISc Bangalore offer courses on quantum technology. According to an assessment by McKinsey, investments in quantum technologies may result in economic benefits of up to $1.3 trillion by 2035. However, new master's-level graduates in quantum technologies is projected to have filled roughly two-thirds of the industry's available positions in 2022.

The growth in India's digital education space and the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning provide the foundation for the creation of a roadmap for quantum education. The country must develop a comprehensive curriculum covering a broad range of quantum mechanics and computing topics at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. Example modules already exist in a bachelor's quantum engineering programme at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, the master's in programmes at the University of California, Los Angeles or San Jose State University. Such programmes should be supplemented by hands-on training, internships, and industry collaboration to provide students with practical experience. Free courses such as the ones offered by the National Programme on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) should include quantum education and workforce development.

Importantly, investing in the development of sophisticated quantum labs and research centres as well as international collaborations, will be crucial.

Government policies and investments, as in the case of futuristic technologies like AI, are also needed to provide a supportive ecosystem for quantum research and development. With the right investments in education, infrastructure, policy, and partnerships, Indian universities can become a global hub for quantum education and research.