North Potomac Yard - Virginia Tech Innovation Campus Update 11/17/21

Northrop Grumman Commits $12.5M Toward Quantum Research and Education

Leading global aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman has become a key strategic partner of the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus by making a $12.5 million commitment to support research and teaching in quantum information science and engineering.

The company’s commitment will dramatically enhance the university’s work in a field with the potential to reshape industries and profoundly alter the dynamics of national security.

“We are extremely grateful for this extraordinary commitment by Northrop Grumman,” said Lance Collins, vice president and executive director of the Innovation Campus, which is located in Alexandria, Virginia. “The emergence of quantum computing will affect all industries and alter the landscape for national defense. This new partnership enables us to expand our work in this field in powerful new ways, and will sponsor a new Center of Quantum Architecture and Software Development on the Virginia Tech Innovation Campus that will lead the nation in this area of research.”

Virginia Tech faculty, students, and collaborators are working together at the intersection of quantum disciplines to drive quantum mechanics from the lab into real world applications. The new partnership with Northrop Grumman positions the university to dramatically increase the scope of its transdisciplinary quantum-related research and teaching. Northrop Grumman’s support will be used to:

  • Establish an endowed faculty position that will help recruit an internationally recognized researcher to head the new Center of Quantum Architecture and Software Development at the Innovation Campus.
  • Endow five to 10 graduate fellowship positions to recruit nationally competitive doctoral and master’s candidates, with a focus on diversity.
  • Build programs to connect Northrop Grumman experts with Virginia Tech quantum information science and engineering faculty based at the university’s Innovation Campus and Blacksburg campus.
  • Create or enhance pathway programs that engage K-12 students – particularly those from underrepresented groups – to prepare them for STEM careers and ultimately help shape a more inclusive culture in the high tech sector.
  • Support master of engineering projects in computer science and computer engineering.

The Virginia Tech Innovation Campus plans to invest an additional $15.8 million to establish the leading Center of Quantum Architecture and Software Development for the nation, bringing the total support for the initiative to $28.3 million.

“Our partnership with Virginia Tech will help support their vision to solve the world’s most pressing problems with ground-breaking technologies,” said Kathy Warden, Northrop Grumman chairman, chief executive officer and president, who is also a member of the Innovation Campus Advisory Board. “Through partnerships like this, we can build on a ‘better together’ approach to prepare future talent – to help build the next generation of engineers, scientists and technologists – while driving innovative critical research.”  

Advances in quantum science and engineering are projected to transform multiple pillars of technology across computing, sensing, and communications. For example, harnessing the quantum properties of individual atoms allows them to be used as perfectly reproducible precision sensors. Leveraging the novel quantum effects of entanglement and superposition allows quantum computers to perform at exponentially faster computing speeds for certain types of problems. And by exploiting the uniquely quantum principle that quantum information cannot be copied, it is possible to construct quantum networks with theoretically unbreakable security. It is also possible that the most transformative applications of quantum science haven’t even been thought of yet. Quantum science and our ability to engineer quantum systems has tremendous promise to sense, process, and secure the world around us in extraordinary ways.

“Northrop Grumman and Virginia Tech both recognize the game-changing nature of quantum information science and engineering,” said Dan Sui, the university’s vice president for research and innovation. “Advancing the quantum leap is one of the four frontiers in which Virginia Tech will continue to make future investments. Our university is in the home stretch to launch a Quantum Information Science and Engineering Center in Blacksburg that has brought together numerous faculty members across five departments. We’re delighted to now be able to amplify our quantum work to a great degree through this new partnership with Northrop Grumman.”

In 2017, the quantum leap was announced as one of “10 big ideas” of research emphasis by the National Science Foundation.

"Virginia Tech will help build and sharpen quantum engineering expertise. We view this partnership as an important step toward harnessing the unique features of quantum systems such as entanglement, which Einstein referred to as 'spooky action at a distance,' to help us address real-world challenges and advance national security,” said Mark Caylor, president, Northrop Grumman Mission Systems, which manages the company’s sensors, communications, and processing businesses.

Virginia Tech has a longstanding relationship with Northrop Grumman. The company employs dozens of directors and eight vice presidents who are Virginia Tech graduates, and over 700 of the university’s alumni work at the company. Northrop Grumman recently sponsored a graduate degree cohort with 25 employees taking Virginia Tech courses, and the company engaged 60 students from the university as interns this past summer. For more than a decade, Virginia Tech and Northrop Grumman scientists and engineers have closely collaborated on cutting-edge research and technology development for applications ranging from the depths of the ocean to satellites in orbit around the Earth.

In addition, Virginia Tech and Northrop Grumman researchers have co-authored eight publications in the past three years. Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus, which broke ground in Alexandria in September, is located roughly 15 miles from Northrop Grumman’s principal executive offices in Falls Church, Virginia. Academic Building One of the Innovation Campus will open in 2024.

“Advancing the new dynamics of quantum computing is important for Virginia Tech, Northrop Grumman, the greater D.C. region, and the nation,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “We’re deeply grateful for Northrop Grumman’s generous support of research and education that supports innovation, security, and the development of technology talent in the commonwealth.”

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