The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) has awarded R8-million in seed funding to the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) to implement Phase 1 of the South African Quantum Technology Initiative (SA QuTI). Wits had already set up its own WitsQ quantum research initiative and is the designated host, administrator and funds manager for SA QuTI.
“This initial grant from the DSI is received with deep gratitude,” acknowledged Wits Research Development director Dr Robin Drennan. “Quantum technologies offer a new frontier of research and innovation, and this grant shows a clear and confident vision expressed by the Department.”
The purpose of SA QuTI, approved by the DSI earlier this year, is to facilitate the creation in the country of a globally-competitive quantum technology research environment. It will be a national endeavour, involving Wits and four other South African universities (Stellenbosch University, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the University of Zululand), with the quantum computing infrastructure being provided by the country’s Centre for High-Performance Computing.
“The objective is to move South Africa into a quantum future where government, industry and academia work together for the development and deployment of quantum technologies,” explained Wits School of Physics Structured Light Laboratory director and WitsQ director Distinguished Professor Andrew Forbes. “It is an exciting time to be in quantum, and I believe that Wits has an important role to play in this field.”
Phase 1 would see the development of quantum technology initiatives at Wits, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, as well as at the National Metrology Institute of South Africa. Some of the Phase 1 funding had already been allocated by the SA QuTI to support pre-identified students – undergraduate, postgraduate, and post-doctoral – from several universities, working on quantum technologies.
The subsequent Phase 2 would be aimed at creating critical research mass in the sector in this country, by setting up senior and emerging research chairs (professorships). It would also aim at developing greater demographic and other diversity in South African quantum technology research as well as establishing new quantum research centres in historically disadvantaged institutions.