The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) has awarded Wits University $3 million (R54 million) to launch the South African Quantum Technologies Initiative (SA QuTI). A written proposal by a national consortium headed by Wits professor Andrew Forbes was accepted by the DSI last year, and as a result, the DSI committed the first round of financing up until March 2025 to establish the national quantum technologies program.
The SA QuTI is a national initiative that aims to develop the local quantum technology economy while also fostering a research environment in quantum computing technologies that is competitive on a worldwide scale. According to Wits, financing will be concentrated on lobbying, access to quantum computers, developing rising leaders, and human capital development, as well as support for quantum communications and quantum sensing and metrology deployment through start-up entities.
Additionally, it will assist in the establishment of quantum nodes at five centers: Wits University, University of Zululand (UniZulu), Stellenbosch University, University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), and Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT). By identifying and assisting new emerging quantum leaders, this will eventually increase the number of active centers throughout the nation.
According to Forbes, the institution was able to persuade the government that investing in a national program would be wise because quantum research is too vital to be left to a tiny research group.
“It means we can drive the technology and get many quantum nodes up to scratch,” he states, adding the emphasis is on quantum technology, rather than quantum science. The aim is to develop people who can do something with the science, so that we can be part of the quantum revolution and develop a quantum economy,” said Forbes.
The institution with its home base in Braamfontein is not a newcomer to the use of quantum computing technology or research that is motivated by this technology.
A new partnership with Wits saw the US-based computer giant IBM announce the expansion of its quantum computing activities to Africa in 2019. As a result of the relationship, the organization became the first African partner on the IBM Q Network and the entry point for academics from all over South Africa to the 15 universities that make up the African Research Universities Alliance.
According to the university, Wits will oversee the SA Quantum Technologies Initiative project, as well as manage and distribute financing, while bolstering other research hubs with ongoing quantum studies, including Stellenbosch University, CPUT, UKZN, and UniZulu.
The national quantum initiative will not concentrate on creating the hardware for quantum computers; instead, it will write software and create applications for them, according to Forbes, which is where SA can play a significant role in the global quantum community.
Forbes concluded that it was crucial to keep in mind that this was not a physics project. According to the professor, the institution wants to engage individuals with various skill sets, wherever they may be, in order to create a thriving quantum community and a prosperous quantum sector.