Creating a hub for cutting-edge quantum science

When the Chicago Quantum Exchange (CQE) opened its doors at UChicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering (PME) in June 2017, it was the beginning of a bold effort to make the Chicago region a leader in the development of quantum technology.

David Awschalom, UChicago’s Liew Family Professor in Molecular Engineering, Argonne senior scientist and director of the CQE, first proposed the idea of creating an intellectual hub for quantum research soon after he joined the UChicago faculty in 2013.

The Chicago Quantum Exchange is anchored by the University of Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Northwestern University, as well as partners across the globe. It also includes more than 20 industry partners.

The CQE brings together a community of researchers who share the common goal of developing radically new types of quantum devices, materials, and computing techniques. The hub also strives to educate a new workforce of scientists and engineers to build the new quantum economy.

Through workshops and meetings, the CQE facilitates collaboration and knowledge-sharing among its community of academic, national lab, and industry researchers, building a network of quantum innovation across the Chicagoland area and beyond. It also hosts the annual Chicago Quantum Summit, where speakers from academia, industry, and government come together to discuss the future of the field.

Future quantum workforce

As part of its effort to create a new quantum workforce, the CQE manages UChicago’s role in the Quantum Information Science and Engineering Network (QISE-NET) program, which funds graduate students in quantum science from across the United States to do collaborative research with industry or national lab scientists as part of their PhD work.

Other educational initiatives include a Certificate in Quantum Science and Engineering specifically for classically trained scientists and engineers who are currently in the workforce, and a program called TeachQuantum that embeds local high school teachers in research labs to help them learn quantum-focused concepts and build curricula to use in their classrooms.

As part of the CQE’s goal to create a local quantum economy, the center along with UChicago’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation helped launch Duality, the first U.S. startup accelerator focused on quantum technologies. Founding partners include Argonne, UIUC, and P33, a new non-profit focused on making Chicago a tech leader.

“Developing a new technology at nature’s smallest scales requires strong partnerships with complementary expertise and significant resources,” said Awschalom. “CQE brings together leading experts, facilities and industries from around the world to revolutionize the field of quantum science and engineering.”

Editor's note: This feature is part of a series that highlights Pritzker Molecular Engineering centers and partnerships as part of our 10-year anniversary. Visit our website to read more and register for an alumni and industry day on Sept. 17 and a scientific conference on Sept. 18.