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Quantum technology is expected to revolutionize information processing across a range of military and civilian applications – from artificial intelligence, to supply chain optimization, to pharmaceuticals discovery, to cryptography. 

The US Department of Defense research agency, DARPA, wants to rigorously assess any quantum research claims that a useful fault-tolerant quantum computer could be built in the near future, looking for underexplored areas of quantum computing showing promise.

Fault tolerance refers to a system’s ability to continue operating uninterrupted despite the failure of one or more of its components.

DARPA has recently announced the Underexplored Systems for Utility-Scale Quantum Computing (US2QC) program. It aims to determine if an underexplored approach to quantum computing is capable of achieving utility-scale operation much faster than conventional predictions.

US2QC is a complementary hardware effort to an existing DARPA program, Quantum Benchmarking, which is developing quantitative benchmarks on the software side to thoroughly assess potential applications where quantum computers could provide a meaningful improvement over classical computers for important problems. 

Because innovative approaches to building a quantum computer are extremely varied, US2QC is structured for maximum flexibility. The only common foundation for all proposals is Phase 0, in which proposers will quantitatively describe a complete utility-scale concept, including all components and sub-systems, projected performance capabilities against a variety of metrics, and anticipated technical risks and mitigation strategies.