By Michael Baczyk

What is the Stanford Center for Responsible Quantum Technology?

On May 20, 2024, the Stanford Center for Responsible Quantum Technology hosted its 2nd Annual Stanford Responsible Quantum Technology Conference with a focus on Quantum Simulation. The event was a unique blend of art, music, and quantum technology discussions, creating an immersive atmosphere that encouraged open dialogue.

The Stanford Center for Responsible Quantum Technology, founded by Mauritz Kop and part of the Stanford Program in Law, Science & Technology, is an institution dedicated to investigating the societal implications of quantum technologies. The Center brings together a diverse, multidisciplinary community to explore the balance between maximizing benefits and mitigating risks associated with applied quantum technologies, it adopts a pro-innovation stance while navigating the complex landscape of quantum technologies and their ethical, legal, socio-economic, and policy implications (Quantum-ELSPI). 

Additionally, the Center has plans to establish a new quantum technology incubator to further support the development of responsible quantum technologies.

During the conference, research fellows from the Center presented their work, which largely built upon the ten principles for responsible quantum innovation proposed by the Center. These principles, organized into three functional categories: safeguarding, engaging, and advancing (SEA), provide a framework for addressing the risks, challenges, and opportunities associated with the development and application of quantum technologies. The principles are linked to central values in responsible research and innovation (RRI) and aim to steer the development and use of quantum technology in a direction that aligns with a values-based society while contributing to addressing society’s most pressing needs and goals. Other publications by RQT fellows can be found here.

In the following paragraphs, I will discuss insights from the conference, grouped into three categories: science, commercial applications, and ecosystem considerations. At the end of the article, I will revisit the original question posed in the title and provide a summary of the key takeaways.


The conference featured several insightful presentations on the scientific aspects of quantum technologies, with a particular focus on quantum sensing. 

Professor Mark Brongersma delivered a captivating talk on quantum mechanics in the context of engineered quantum materials and devices. He introduced the concept of a new generation of photonic materials that are dynamic, such as lenses with the ability to change focal points. This groundbreaking technology could potentially enable the creation of thin films that can be applied to glasses, allowing for augmented reality experiences without the need for bulky headsets.

Another notable presentation was given by Dr. Lindsay Rand, who discussed the implications of quantum technologies on nuclear deterrence. Dr. Rand’s analysis focused on how quantum sensors could impact the vulnerability of nuclear force structures, particularly in the context of submarine and missile detection. However, the conclusion drawn from the presentation was that quantum sensors, when applied to nuclear deterrence in an operational setting, may still lack the necessary precision and capabilities to significantly alter the current balance of power.


The conference also featured a panel bringing together companies from the United States and Europe discussion on commercial aspects of quantum technologies.

The panelists agreed that while the potential for quantum technologies is vast, we still need to wait for specific applications to materialize. This sentiment was echoed by the patent studies presented by researchers at the conference, which revealed that the majority of current patents focus on the physical, hardware, setup, and architecture layers, protecting the IP at the fundamental qubit level. These findings reaffirm that the focus is not yet entirely on applications, as reliable hardware needs to be developed first to enable the creation of practical, real-world quantum applications.

Panelists also emphasized the need for collaboration, cooperation, and consistency from the government side to support the development of these applications. On the other hand, government representatives expressed their desire to see applications that would generate excitement and justify further investment in quantum technologies. The panelists acknowledged that this dialogue between industry and government will need to continue over the coming years to ensure the successful development and deployment of quantum technologies overcoming the technological valley of death.

All the panelists highlighted the critical importance of building a strong quantum workforce and creating the necessary tools to facilitate future developments in the field.


The conference also shed light on the various quantum technology ecosystems developing around the world. Dr. Gustav Kalbe from the European Commission delivered a message reaffirming the EU’s commitment to quantum technologies. He highlighted that the EU was the birthplace of quantum science and has been a leader in the field for the past 100 years. The EU remains dedicated to maintaining its position as a leading player in quantum technologies.

The conference also featured presentations on the thriving quantum ecosystem in Denmark, which boasts a wide variety of initiatives, startups, and accelerators. The Novo Nordisk Foundation’s recent commitment of a 200 million fund dedicated solely to quantum technologies is particularly noteworthy, demonstrating the country’s strong support for the field.

Similarly, the Netherlands has developed a national strategy which aim is for the Netherlands to become a successful global player in quantum technology. The strategy focuses on attracting talent and creating a network of connections that will foster a safe and stable future for quantum technologies in the Netherlands.

Questions were raised about the security of the quantum technology supply chain in the United States. It was noted that current recommendations regarding critical mineral sourcing do not include quantum-critical minerals, despite the fact that China and Russia are significant sources of these materials. The example of molybdenum was discussed to illustrate this concern. If you are interested in learning more about the Global Quantum Supply Chain, check out GQI’s report on that topic. 

Another topic of interest was the reauthorization of the National Quantum Initiative in the United States. While the process appears to be stuck in the Senate, it was emphasized that the delay is not due to partisan reasons. The presenter stressed that the National Quantum Initiative is merely the bare minimum the US can do, especially when compared to China’s inclusion of quantum technologies in their national five-year plan, with quantum expected to be a part of the next structured plan as well. If you are interested in learning more about Quantum Tech in China, check out another GQI’s report that covers it. 

Regulations of Quantum Technology

The conference also featured discussions on the regulation of quantum technology, with input from various government officials, think tank members, lawyers, and activists based in Washington, D.C. Interestingly, even among the lawyers present, there was a consensus that regulating quantum technology at this early stage might not be the most appropriate course of action. The panelists and speakers noted that it is challenging to predict the full range of applications and implications of any new technology and that regulations often develop in tandem with the field’s progress. They suggested that guardrails, recommendations, and best practices are more effective and agile tools for guiding the development of quantum technologies, while standards—an area where the US has traditionally led in many different technologies—are the most ideal. However, it was emphasized that the US should not take its leadership role in standards in the quantum industry for granted and must actively work to maintain its position.

Given the current technological readiness level of quantum technologies, the speakers argued that regulation might not be the most sensible approach. Attendees from academia, government, and industry alike emphasized the need for international collaboration, stressing that no single country or company can build a quantum ecosystem in isolation. They cautioned that unnecessary or premature regulation could hinder these collaborative efforts. Some speakers even advocated for keeping the future of quantum as open as possible and only as closed as necessary, however there were also voices leaning more towards as closed as possible, open as necessary approach.

May 21, 2024