Right now, the US has a limited talent pool of quantum computing experts. But, as Silicon Valley gears up for what it expects to be a huge revolution in supercomputing, Microsoft has big plans to start training people in quantum-related skills now.
Quantum computers have special properties that allow them to process exponentially more information than regular ones. Although they’re still in their early stages, quantum computing could potentially be used for complicated problems like drug discovery, predicting the stock market, fighting climate change, or planning shipping logistics.
Giants like IBM, Microsoft, Google, and Intel have invested in their own quantum computing efforts, with startups like Rigetti or IonQ taking on the market as well. Still, experts say that real, practical quantum computers are still likely five to ten years away, and call this current period a a “ quantum winter.”
Still, Krysta Svore, general manager of quantum software at Microsoft, says that there are ways to get people up to speed now. She spoke about some of these plans at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference on Monday.
For one, Microsoft has a quantum development kit, which includes a programming language for quantum applications called Q#. This kit is available as open source, which means it’s free for anyone to use, download, or modify. Svore says developers can start using this kit to write applications that can be run on a quantum computer. Microsoft also created a curriculum for people to learn about quantum computing and programming in Q#.
“We’ve seen Microsoft really opening up for more of a community approach to problems and solutions,” Svore said. “With that, we decided that we also want to see a broader community engaging around quantum computing.”
Just in March, Microsoft partnered with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the University of Washington to form a coalition called the Northwest Quantum Nexus, which aims to promote the development of quantum computing in the Pacific Northwest region.
Finally, she says to continue to support education in science, technology, engineering, and math. Previously, Todd Holmdahl, corporate vice president of Microsoft Quantum, told Business Insider that he would advise children to pursue quantum computing as a career because there are big opportunities for the future.
Indeed, the government is interested in advancing quantum computing, too. In December, it passed the National Quantum Initiative Act, which proposes spending $1.2 billion over the next five years to advance quantum computing technologies.
“We need to continue to think about how we’re going to educate people in our country where they can do important technological advances here,” Svore said. “Without people entering those fields and not knowing how to program period, we’re not going to be competitive.”