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Discovery Fund to Seed Local Innovation Ecosystem

At Quantum Investment Summit, Pines Says First Round of Funds to Target Quantum-based Businesses

By Maryland Today Staff

Pines makes quantum announcement at podium

UMD President Darryll J. Pines addresses in-person and virtual attendees at the university's Quantum Investment Summit, an event designed to pair researchers working on innovative quantum science and technology with investors seeking to fund business ideas arising from the revolutionary field.

Photo by Stephanie S. Cordle

University of Maryland President Darryll J. Pines today announced the creation of the Discovery Fund, which will support innovative companies and startups based in College Park and throughout Prince George’s County with up to $1 million a year from the university.

The first round of support is earmarked to help build a network of quantum business focused around UMD, Pines said in an address at the university’s inaugural Quantum Investment Summit. The two-day event was designed to connect investors and innovators in the growing quantum business and technology space, and drew more than 300 in-person and virtual participants from U.S. and international companies and organizations.

The university has long been a powerhouse in quantum physics research as well as a leader in designing and engineering technology based on this revolutionary branch of science—one expected to result in quantum computers with unprecedented capabilities as well as disruptive advances in material science, digital security, health care and other fields.

UMD’s growing commitment to strengthening the industry’s foundation further solidifies the university’s status as the heart of the “Capital of Quantum,” Pines said.

“This continual building on the infrastructure needed to catalyze startups and create groundbreaking products is absolutely essential if we’re to support and accelerate the advancement and commercialization of quantum technologies,” he said. “The Discovery Fund is the perfect addition to keep the momentum going around the quantum ecosystem we have been building for more than three decades.”

The announcement of the new funding comes the same month that a leading quantum computing company, IonQ, went public on the New York Stock exchange with a $2 billion market valuation. The company is based in part on technology developed in UMD labs, and illustrates what the university has to gain: “As IonQ works to bring quantum computing to scale, its continued close connection with UMD affords the company access to a pipeline of stellar workforce talent,” Pines said today.

Another feature in UMD’s expanding ecosystem is the Quantum Startup Foundry (QSF), backed by a $10 million capital investment from UMD, which will function as a business incubator to support nascent firms in the quantum technology field. The university today announced that MITRE, a not-for-profit company that works in the public interest and operates six federally funded research and development centers in areas including aviation, defense, health care, homeland security, and cybersecurity had joined as a founding QSF member.

Julie Lenzer, UMD’s chief innovation officer, said offerings like the QSF and the Quantum Investment Summit help make the university central to quantum-based industry as it already is in quantum science and engineering research.

“Helping to give rise to a company as successful as IonQ would be a once-in-a-lifetime thing for most schools, if that,” Lenzer said. “But we’re continuing to build on this so we can breed more success by connecting innovative quantum research and ideas with investors who want to make a difference in an area that’s going to define the future.”

Attendees at the investment summit included businesses ranging from giants like Lockheed Martin and IBM to new firms vying to become household names, as well as local and state officials, investors and venture capital firms.

With federal and state agencies and nations worldwide pouring many billions of dollars into quantum research—and hoping to reap the rewards of winning the race to deploy the technology—UMD, the region and the nation must strive to turn deep fundamental understanding of the science into innovation, Pines said.

“Make no mistake: This is our generation’s space race,” he said. “Who will be the first to unleash the power of quantum? I’m hoping it’s going to be us.”

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