Colorado will get federal planning grant for quantum computing tech hub

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J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo
The U.S. Capitol is seen in Washington, May 22, 2023

Colorado might not get to be a regional hydrogen hub, but it will be a tech hub — getting a slice of the $10 billion authorized by the CHIPS and Science Act to spur investments in new technologies and increase America’s competitiveness.

A source briefed by the Department of Commerce said that a Colorado effort, Elevate Quantum, will receive a planning grant to develop its hub concept further. The official announcement is expected next week.

The Elevate Quantum Consortium proposal wants to make the state a leading hub for quantum information science — a combination of  quantum mechanics and computer science. The focus would be to help transform research into applications for the marketplace and help develop a start-up system, as well as develop a workforce.

The field is relatively new and focused in only a handful of cities across the country. The designation could  be significant for Colorado, helping it become a leader in the quantum tech field.

Recently, Polis led a bipartisan letter from state lawmakers to Commerce Secretary Gina  Raimondo supporting Elevate Quantum’s efforts to become a Regional Technology Hub in Advanced Energy technologies. It was one of two proposals — the other focused on clean energy — that state leaders backed.

“Colorado is an undisputed leader in quantum research and technology translation and this designation will leverage our existing assets to help take Colorado and the Quantum industry to the next level,” they wrote.

When asked about the prospect of a designation, Colorado Sen. John Hickenlooper said it could be “huge.”

He said the state has been moving quickly in this space and getting the designation will “focus, not just the attention of government and other government agencies, but people that invest in startups, the whole ecosystem that you need to grow technology.”

Hickenlooper, who serves on the Senate Commerce committee, said this type of economic development was something he worked on as a mayor and a governor. “How do we establish (Colorado) in this place where we are known to be a leader in technology and science.” He thinks this type of designation can help the state down that path.

The amount of the initial grant has not yet been announced, but it is just the first phase of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration Regional Tech Hub designation process. If Elevate Quantum does well, it could then be eligible for up to $50-70 million dollars in grant funding during the 2nd phase of the process. Those grants are expected to be awarded in 2024.

The CHIPS Act was signed into law in August 2022 and is intended to spur investment in high-tech research and bring semiconductor manufacturing back to the United States. Both Hickenlooper and Sen. Michael Bennet voted for the bill, which passed the Senate 64-33. The bill passed the House 243-187, where all Colorado House Democrats voted for the bill and all Colorado House Republicans voted against it.