$27 million fund set up to boost quantum research

Israel hopes the funding of researchers in the field will boost the nation’s standing, even as other countries pour billions of dollars into the emerging field

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

A Merck researcher does work on quantum materials (PRNewsFoto/Merck KGaA)
A Merck researcher does work on quantum materials (PRNewsFoto/Merck KGaA)

The Defense Ministry and the Israel Science Foundation have set up a new NIS 100 million ($27 million) fund over five years to boost the study of quantum technologies and develop the research infrastructure necessary to boost Israel’s global position in the growing field.

The fund “will continue to place Israel at the top of global technology and research,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also the defense minister, in a statement. “From the cyber power to the quantum superpower, we will continue to lead significant breakthroughs for the State of Israel.”

Quantum physics, discovered at the beginning of the 20th century, describes the properties of microscopic particles. Within the scientific community, the study of quantum physics is considered as revolutionary as the study of nanotechnology. The US, China and European countries are rushing to develop technologies based on quantum principles, pouring billions of dollars into research efforts and vying for a leading spot in the emerging field.

Israel’s ministries of defense, science, and finance and the Israel Innovation Authority, which is in charge of setting out the nation’s policies for its tech sector, are currently formulating a national plan for the quantum field. The setting up of the fund is a first step in the bid to create an ecosystem in the field, the Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Illustrative image of the revolution that Quantum computing could bring (marinhristov; iStock by Getty Images)

Some NIS 75 million of the money will be aimed at supporting “outstanding research groups” at Israeli universities that will undertake research and development in the sector. The money will be used to finance both the research expenses and to purchase or upgrade the equipment required for the research, the statement said. The fund will invest in a variety of fields, including quantum communications, quantum simulation, quantum sensors such as atomic clocks, magnetic field meters and quantum materials.

The remaining funds will be earmarked for other purposes, according to need, the statement said.

“Quantum has been growing globally in recent years, and is expected to change the way we examine reality both in routine situations as well as in emergency situations, in a variety of aspects such as navigation, safe communications, calculations,” said Brig. Gen Daniel Gold of the Defense Ministry.

“The global race is already underway,” said Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats, the chairwoman of the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Israel Council for Higher Education. “Various countries are investing huge sums in developing the field, and if we do not run forward, the State of Israel will be left behind. ”

The Defense Ministry has been active in the field of quantum technologies for many years, and is working to exploit the unique advantages of these technologies as in its operational needs, the statement said.

The program will help “leapfrog” Israel’s capabilities, the ministry said, leading it to applications that that were until now considered imaginary.

Quantum theory has already succeeded in explaining the structure of matter — the atom, the molecule, the chemical bonds between particles, solid matter and crystals. It has also provided the basis for developments such as transistor, laser, light waves, fast communication and atomic clocks that are the basis for satellite navigation systems and medical imaging methods such as MRI, among others.

Prof. Uri Sivan of the Faculty of Physics at the Technion — Israel Institute of Technology will head the steering committee for the fund along with academic experts in the field, the statement said.

In Israel, the Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education said last year that it would invest tens of millions of dollars in quantum technology research in its five-year plan.

In May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced a project that would enhance Israel’s intelligence gathering capacities through the use of quantum technology.

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