In the first post, I introduced the National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications (NM-QTA).
In the second post, I provided an overview of international quantum technology space.
In this third and final post, I will offer high-level comments on the NM-QTA.
If India aspires to capitalize on quantum technology, she should aim to position herself at the top of the quantum value chain. That, of course, entails some degree of competition. Countries, which manage to place themselves at the top of the innovation value chain, will enjoy the first mover advantage when it comes to standards-setting or setting the technical, legal and policy discourse trajectory.
The distribution of wealth across the value chain has never been equal or equitable (realistically speaking). It is like a bottom-up pyramid. Countries which are at the top of the value chain will garner more wealth when compared to countries at the bottom of the value chain. Further, countries which are at the top of the value chain will be in a position to contribute to the international standard setting exercises. Standards are dynamic. But once a technology is part of the standard, it will enjoy a head start advantage. (In other words, theoretically speaking, a country can be a late entrant and contributor to the standards-setting. But it has practical limitations.)
(For the unitiated, 5G or 4G is a standard. Imagine a company that has contributed to the 4G or 5G technology. The company obviously gains from inclusion of its technology (in the form of royalty) in this global standard. Now, imagine the standard-setting in quantum space and the consequences when India loses out in this space)
Does our NM-QTA understand this reality?
I do not think so (or rather I am not sure about it).
I tried to get hold of NM-QTA policy document. It is not available online. I may be mistaken. If somebody can share it, I am happy to go through it.
All I could get hold of are:
- Press statements; and
- Draft concept note prepared by Technology Information, Forecasting and Assessment Council (an autonomous body under Department of Science and Technology).
They do not address the given below pertinent questions:
- Where are we in the international quantum space (a reality-check)?
- Are we a late entrant in the quantum space? If yes, what can be done to bridge the gap?
- How can we emerge as a leader in the quantum space?
My take is that India is a late entrant in the quantum space. We are talking about 1 billion investment in R&D in 2023. Compare this investment with the investments made by US, China, EU and UK and more importantly, how early they started the quantum missions (see my second post). Considering the confidential nature, it is quite difficult to gather intelligence on the progress made by players in this space. But one thing which I can confidently say is, India does not figure as a leading player in the quantum space discussions.
The quantum game is not over yet. If India decides to galvanise her resources, India can emerge as a top player in the quantum technology value chain. That means, accepting the reality as it is and creating a robust innovation ecosystem where both the state and the private players play their roles. Note that quantum technology is at the core of national security and digital sovereignty. It is high time that India has a robust technology diplomacy discourse that aids the country in collaborating with like-minded or strategically aligned countries.