Quantum Research at UConn: Interdisciplinary team formally convenes as an “Innovation Engine”

Photo courtesy Jacobs School of Engineering – David Baillot/NSF

The research co-op Quantum CT hosted its first “Quantum Consortium” at the University of Connecticut’s Innovation Partnership Building on Tuesday, Oct. 3. 

The meeting is the first to “bring the hundred plus (quantum) faculty under one roof,” said Jit Banerjee, UConn’s associate vice president for research innovation and entrepreneurship. 

The conference was attended by experts from a vast array of fields, each sharing their unique perspectives during roundtable discussions. 

“We are a team,” stated quantum technologies program specialist Sanjeev Nayak, who emphasized that the “overarching goal is more important than one individual’s perspective of Quantum.” 

The goal, as defined by UConn’s vice president for research, Pamir Alpay, is to “build up a regional innovation engine,” through the consolidated effort of the Quantum CT program. 

Quantum CT, a partnership between UConn, Yale and a host of other research institutions, businesses and local governments, seeks to “greatly expedite the advancement of quantum technologies, leading to substantial long-term economic benefits for the state,” according to the project’s website. 

The program commenced in May of this year, supported by a million-dollar grant from the National Science Foundation for the purpose of researching the potential applications of emergent quantum technologies. The team is now tasked with “putting together a winning proposal,” stated Alpay, who leads the interdisciplinary researchers as they compete for a $160 million NSF implementation grant. 

“We want to have projects that we aggressively succeed at,” said business development manager Mike DiDonato, imploring the audience of researchers to organize their efforts as they face off against over 40 other teams nationwide. 

The present successes of the team in quantum sensing, cryptography, materials and more have  not gone unnoticed, however; the program boasts partnerships with a growing list of high-profile industry leaders including Microsoft, Raytheon Technologies and Boehringer Ingelheim. 

Among the many challenges faced by the task force, perhaps the most difficult is demonstrating to business interests how the little-understood realm of quantum technologies will disrupt the current market – for better or worse. 

A critical point expressed by participants of the consortium is the transformative effect quantum technologies will have on businesses: Those who can leverage its capabilities will experience growth, while those who neglect its potential will be outcompeted. 

The current stage of quantum interest is limited in scope, and scientists must now confront the task of  “unraveling information for companies” to integrate into real-world applications, said Banerjee. 

In one discussion regarding workforce development and education in the quantum age, experts inspectors ranging from fine arts to physics evaluated the best methods for creating a quantum-literate population. 

Group chairs Caroline Dealy, Jason Hancock, and Morgaen Donaldson were joined by many in advocating for quantum awareness. Talks about educating the future and current workforce with courses ranging from the high school to postgraduate level, alongside a general education effort such as the upcoming Quantum Awareness Day on Dec. 14, lay the groundwork for advancing quantum technology’s exposure beyond the lab. 

“Our workforce in Connecticut is the best educated and most talented in the nation, trained with the modern skills needed to make the United States an international leader in the research an development of the emerging field of quantum technology,” said Governor Ned Lamont 

The current status of quantum research is worryingly underrepresented in the United States, with many indications of foreign labs, including those in China, outperforming the U.S. To this end, the minds behind Quantum CT are tirelessly dedicated to their mission, and, in the words of Yale’s vice provost for research Michael Crair, creating a “quantum corridor in Connecticut.” 


  1. More on quantum research at UConn can be found at the Quantum Initiative website: https://quantum.initiative.uconn.edu/

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