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US Sen. John Hickenlooper pushes to keep Colorado's lead in quantum development

Senator John Hickenlooper quantum technology Medium.jpeg
Posted at 8:59 AM, Apr 26, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-26 10:59:49-04

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Advances in quantum computing will soon revolutionize technology globally. State and federal leaders want to keep Colorado at the forefront of this emerging industry.

The National Cybersecurity Center in Colorado Springs hosted a panel discussion Thursday with US Sen. John Hickenlooper, entrepreneurs, investors and industry leaders to share the exciting possibilities this technology can bring.

Quantum computers are capable of performing complex calculations millions of times faster than current supercomputers. A separate but related field of quantum sensing applies scientific knowledge gained from studying quantum mechanics and quantum entanglement to create vastly superior methods of measurement and navigation.

Scott Davis, CEO and Co-Founder of Vescent Technologies in Boulder, explained the futuristic possibilities of quantum sensing.

"Sensors that can tell if someone's on the other side of a wall or not by their gravitational pull, clocks that are millions of times better than existing clocks, fundamentally secure communications," Davis said.

He described his company as a "picks and shovels" operation in quantum technology.

“We manufacture systems that wrangle light photons to be the right color, the right phase, the right intensity and do the dance that you need to do to build quantum computers or quantum networks or quantum timing,” he said.

One current commercial application of that increased sensitivity is detecting air pollution from oil and gas extraction in Colorado.

Boulder-based LongPath Technologies is working with oil and gas companies to detect methane emissions at well sites.

"We can see a quarter of a human breath change in methane from 5 kilometers away," CEO Ian Dickinson explained. "And so, we're building out a network of these towers across these oil and gas spaces to provide that data, we're providing basically a data service, that allows the operators to find and fix the leaks."

Colorado already has a head start in building a quantum economy thanks to many years of study in this field. Four scientists have won Nobel Prizes for their research in the field.

"It all started here and then there is a cluster of industries and companies that have sprung up, we're one of them, that are taking this amazing capability and applying, commercializing it and applying it to real-world problems," he said.

Colorado is currently in competition with Illinois to be designated as a National Technology Hub, according to Sen. Hickenlooper. The designation would bring hundreds of millions of dollars in federal grants to our state and accelerate commercial investment in this growing field.

"To have something is not the same as getting a benefit from it," Sen. Hickenlooper said. "To get a benefit you've got to make sure that people hear it, you've gotta talk about it."

Sen. Hickenlooper wants to encourage stronger networking in the field.

"You take these emerging companies and their emerging leaders and put them in a room together and generally good ideas come out of it and good collaborations come out of it," Hickenlooper said.

The senator's visit to the National Cybersecurity Center came after a meeting with non-profit leaders at the Pikes Peak United Way's Family Readiness Center.

Hickenlooper secured a $1 million Congressionally Designated Grant to help the United Way to renovate the former Pikes Peak Elementary School into a resource hub for families in Colorado Springs.

The senator toured the facility Thursday morning and praised the project as an example of how a small amount of money can make a major impact.

"When the federal government sends a grant out, more has got to happen with it," Sen. Hickenlooper said. "We've got to help more kids get child care, we've got to make sure that more kids get health care at a high level, make sure that families that are struggling and need food, they can get that food easily."

Pikes Peak United Way works with many partner charities at the Readiness Center to serve families with food assistance, child care, career training and financial planning education at the Readiness Center.

National Cybersecurity Center holds panel discussion on quantum technology