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Center for quantum computing research advances to appropriations

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Quantum computing isn’t the future anymore. South Dakota lawmakers want to ensure the state keeps pace with this emerging technology with a quantum research center.

The proposed Center for Quantum Information Science and Technology would be housed at Dakota State University at a cost of just over $6 million via Senate Bill 45.

Traditional computers like your desktop or smartphone use technology based on the transistor, which can be thought of as an electrical “gate" that uses binary code. A one or a zero, open or closed. Quantum computers can operate using multiple states at once at the subatomic level.

DSU president Jose-Marie Griffiths explained the uses of this technology.

“Its aim is to understand how certain laws of physics discovered from 1900-onwards can be harnessed to improve the acquisition, transmission, and processing of information," Griffiths said. "Future scientific and technological discoveries from quantum information science might be even more impactful.”

That includes development of new computing software for national security, healthcare, agriculture, and AI. Griffiths said now is the time to step up.

"If South Dakota doesn’t initiate the efforts now to learn about and leverage these emergent capabilities to the benefit of our major economic sectors, we will not be ready to participate in externally funded quantum research," Griffiths said. "We simply won’t be in the game.”

SB 45 would direct that funding to each of the state’s research universities. Heather Forney, vice president for finance and administration for the Board of Regents explained the price tag.

"There would be faculty and graduate students at each of the four institutions," Forney said. "So, the way we developed it was determining what the average faculty salary and benefits would be, what we anticipated it would cost for the graduate assistants to do the research, and then there’s five years of funding for access to the quantum simulators.”

The bill was advanced to appropriations on a 6-0 vote with a do pass recommendation.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture