As part of the U.S. National Science Foundation’s (NSF) “Big Ideas” concept to fund bold long-term research and process ideas, the NSF is setting up the Quantum Leap Challenge Institutes (QLCI) to perform research in the focus areas of quantum computation, quantum communication, quantum simulation and/or quantum sensing. The total budget for the QLCI program will be up to $94 million and the selected proposals are expected to foster multidisciplinary approaches to specific scientific, technological, educational workforce development goals in these fields.

The five-year program will include awards of two different types. The first is a shorter term 12 month Conceptualization Grant (CG) with a maximum budget of $150,000. NSF expects to make between 15-25 awards of this type. The second type is a Challenge Institute (CI) award which can amount up to $5,000,000 per year for five years. NSF estimates that they will grant between 1-3 awards of this type. Only Institutes of Higher Education or non-profit, non-academic organizations are eligible for this program. Final selections will not occur for a while because the final proposals, made by invitation only, are not due until January 2020 (Round 1 – CI or CG) and February 2021 (Round 2 – CI only). It is anticipated that many organizations will first submit a proposal for a Conceptualization Grant in order to have a year to recruit a suitable research team and develop a compelling and comprehensive vision for a Challenge Institute proposal which will be submitted afterwards.

Each Challenge Institute is expected to carry out its mission through major activities in four areas: 1) Cross-Disciplinary Research, 2) Education and Workforce Development, 3) Research Coordination and 4) Synergistic Partnerships and Infrastructure Development. Key areas of research will include the following:

  • Quantum Networks for Secure Long-Range Communication
  • Software Stacks for Quantum Computers
  • Algorithms, Architectures and Platforms for Quantum Simulation
  • Quantum Sensing

In addition to the research goals, each selected Challenge Institute will also have a mission including Education and Workforce Development, Research Coordination & Community Engagement and Developing Synergistic Partnerships and Infrastructure Development.

For more details you can view the Program Solicitation on the NSF web site here.