Wits secures R54m funding to put SA on a quantum board

Wits secures R54m funding to put SA on a quantum board

Wits University has secured R54 million in funding from the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) to launch the South African Quantum Technology Initiative (SA QuTI).

This follows a written proposal from a national consortium led by Professor Wits Andrew Forbes, which saw DSI commit the first tranche of funding through March 2025, to set up the National Quantum Technologies Initiative.

Approved by the DSI last year, the SA QuTI is a national venture that seeks to create conducive conditions in South Africa for a globally competitive research environment in quantum computing technologies and to develop local industry quantum technologies.

According to Wits, the funding will focus on human capital development, development of emerging leaders, access to quantum computers and advocacy, as well as support for quantum communications and the deployment of quantum sensing and metrology by the through start-up entities.

In addition, it will contribute to the establishment of quantum nodes in five centers, namely Wits University, University of Zululand (UniZulu), University of Stellenbosch, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) and Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) – eventually increasing the number of active centers across the country by finding and supporting new emerging quantum leaders.

“We were able to convince the government that quantum research is too important to be left to a small research group and that it should invest in a national program,” says Forbes.

“That means we can pilot the technology and upgrade many quantum nodes,” he says, adding that the focus is on quantum technology rather than quantum science.

“The goal is to develop people who can do something with science, so that we can be part of the quantum revolution and develop a quantum economy.”

Quantum computing technology and research focused on quantum technology is not a new concept for the Braamfontein-based higher education institution.

In 2019, US computing giant IBM announced the expansion of its quantum computing efforts in Africa under a new collaboration with Wits.

The partnership has enabled the institution to become the first African partner in the IBM Q Network and the gateway for scholars from across South Africa and to the 15 universities that are part of the Alliance of African Research Universities.

Professor Andrew Forbes, Wits University School of Physics.

Professor Andrew Forbes, Wits University School of Physics.

In the case of QuTI SA, Wits will manage the project, as well as administer and distribute funding, while strengthening other research nodes with existing quantum projects, such as Stellenbosch University, CPUT, UKZN and UniZulu , reveals the university.

The goal will also be to start and support new nodes at other research institutions, he notes.

According to Forbes: “The goal is to eventually have a well-established critical mass in the national quantum community and to work with the government to draft new legislation, as it relates to quantum technologies.”

Although South Africa is not the first country to adopt a quantum policy framework, the professor believes the move will put the country on the ‘quantum map’.

For example, new legislation might be needed to govern the use of quantum computers to crack existing bank security codes. In a new quantum world, a bank could not, for example, say that its systems are secure if they are not “quantum secure”.

“By the time quantum computers can crack the code, current encryption systems will fail. You will have to implement quantum security,” he says.

The National Quantum Project will not focus on building quantum computing hardware, but will focus on writing software and creating applications for quantum computers, which Forbes says is where SA can play. a strategic role in the international quantum community.

“It’s important not to see this as a physical initiative. We want to involve people with different skill sets, wherever they are, so that we can build a vibrant quantum community and a viable quantum industry,” he concludes.

#Wits #secures #R54m #funding #put #quantum #board

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *