Quan­tum com­put­ing spe­cial­ists dif­fi­cult to find in­side US

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - News - BY CADE METZ New York Times

Christo­pher Savoie, founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of a startup called Za­p­ata, of­fered jobs this year to three sci­en­tists who spe­cial­ize in an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant tech­nol­ogy called quan­tum com­put­ing. They ac­cepted.

Sev­eral months later, the Cam­bridge, Mas­sachusetts, com­pany was still wait­ing for the State Depart­ment to ap­prove visas for the spe­cial­ists. All three are for­eign­ers, born in Eu­rope and Asia.

Whether the de­lays were the re­sult of tougher im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy or just red tape, Savoie’s predica­ment was typ­i­cal of a grow­ing con­cern among U.S. busi­nesses and uni­ver­si­ties: Un­less poli­cies and pri­or­i­ties change, they will have trou­ble at­tract­ing the tal­ent needed to build quan­tum tech­nol­ogy, which could make to­day’s com­put­ers look like toys.

It is a story that is be­ing told re­peat­edly in the tech in­dus­try in the United States. As com­pa­nies push into new tech­nolo­gies, they are find­ing it harder to iden­tify qual­i­fied en­gi­neers and re­searchers. They are also fac­ing tougher im­mi­gra­tion rules for for­eign-born tech ex­perts and com­pet­ing with tech cen­ters in other coun­tries, like Mon­treal, Lon­don, Paris and Bei­jing.

In­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion is a par­tic­u­larly thorny is­sue in quan­tum com­put­ing be­cause one of these ma­chines – in the­ory – could crack the en­cryp­tion that pro­tects sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion in­side gov­ern­ments and busi­nesses around the world. If a quan­tum com­puter can be built, it will be ex­po­nen­tially more pow­er­ful than even to­day’s su­per­com­put­ers.

Last month, the White House Of­fice of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy Pol­icy in­vited ex­perts from gov­ern­ment, in­dus­try and academia to Wash­ing­ton for a day­long pol­icy meet­ing ded­i­cated to quan­tum tech­nolo­gies. Sev­eral at­ten­dees, in­clud­ing Savoie, ex­pressed con­cern that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies could af­fect quan­tum re­search in academia and cor­po­ra­tions.

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