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Energy Department looking to make ‘broad bets’ for furthering quantum research and development

CIO Ann Dunkin said DOE is looking to innovate quantum technologies through both internal and external R&D.
Ann Dunkin delivers a keynote at FedTalks 2023. (FedScoop)

The Department of Energy is looking to make “broad bets” for upcoming emerging tech and quantum research projects, the agency’s top IT official said Tuesday. 

Speaking at a FedScoop and General Dynamics Information Technology event, DOE Chief Information Officer Ann Dunkin shared that the agency is working on the securing of quantum technology as research and development progresses. 

Currently, DOE is working on fundamental research within the national labs to develop quantum capabilities, with five research centers dedicated specifically to quantum computing. These efforts also involve supporting commercial research and development within universities and with industry leaders. 

“The impact of quantum or encryption, that’s an area where we really need to be thinking very hard right now,” Dunkin said. “As soon as we can find some algorithms that will work, we’ll be attacking that problem. More importantly, the ability to accelerate our computing technology, especially to build better models and simulations, will allow us to advance a lot of technologies beyond what we can do today.”

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Dunkin offered the example of how the department can build battery models to identify better materials. That would then lead to increased sustainability and better operational efficiencies, where storage systems and vehicles are concerned. 

“We’re going to buy products off the shelf, [and] we’re also developing new capabilities ourselves,” Dunkin said. “So there are times when we’re leading and we’re building and we’re not buying. Then there are times when we’re consuming those commodities.”

The next steps for DOE in harnessing emerging technologies and quantum is to identify the best opportunities that would fund new capabilities, Dunkin said. This means “broad bets” within the department’s research agenda, she said, and collaborating with partners in universities and investing in companies where DOE can assist in identifying the next technology. 

“It’s investments in quantum, it’s investments in AI and machine learning. You name it, we are going to look to make broad bets,” Dunkin said. “We have to remember that not every one of those bets will be successful. Every research project that fails is a learning opportunity.”

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