India to spend ₹8000 crore on quantum computing

The Budget also focuses on other technologies and innovations that 'disrupt established business models'.

The Indian government has handed down its 2020 Budget, emphasising the need to take advantage of current and emerging technologies under what it has labelled a "new economy".

One initiative is focusing on the opportunities quantum computing presents, with the government providing ₹8000 crore ($1.12 billion) over a period of five years for the National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications.

"Quantum technology is opening up new frontiers in computing, communications, cybersecurity, with wide-spread applications," Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman said during her Budget speech. "It is expected that lots of commercial applications would emerge from theoretical constructs which are developing in this area."

See also: Quantum computing has arrived, but we still don't really know what to do with it

During her speech, the minister said the new economy is based on innovations that disrupt established business models, pointing to artificial intelligence (AI), Internet-of-Things (IoT), 3D printing, drones, and DNA data storage, in addition to quantum computing.

"India has already embraced new paradigms such as the sharing economy with aggregator platforms displacing conventional businesses," Sitharaman said, noting such disruptive technologies are re-writing the world economic order.

"Government has harnessed new technologies to enable direct benefit transfers and financial inclusion on a scale never imagined before.

"It is now a cliché -- 'data is the new oil' -- and it is true that analytics, fintech, and IoT are changing the way we deal with our lives."

To take advantage of this, the government will also soon be introducing a policy that enables the private sector to build data centre parks throughout the country.

"It will enable our firms to skilfully incorporate data in every step of their value chains," Sitharaman said.

Similarly, Sitharaman declared that all "public institutions" at Gram Panchayat level -- which she said includes Anganwadis, health and wellness centres, government schools, public distribution system outlets, post offices, and police stations -- will be provided with digital connectivity.

"So, fibre to the home connections through Bharatnet will link 100,000 gram panchayats this year," she said. "It is proposed to provide ₹6000 crore to Bharatnet program in 2020-21."

The minister also wants to expand the base for knowledge-driven enterprises, saying intellectual property creation and protection would play an important role.

To benefit startups specifically, the government will be developing a digital platform to facilitate the application and capture of intellectual property rights. It will also be standing up an Institute of Excellence, which Sitharaman said would "work on the complexity and innovation in the field of intellectual property".

Knowledge Translation Clusters will be set up across different technology sectors, and they will include space for design, fabrication, and validation of proof of concepts.

Additionally, Sitharaman said mapping of India's genetic landscape is critical for next generation medicine, agriculture, and for bio-diversity management, so to support this, she announced two new national level science schemes.

The government has also proposed the provision of early life funding, including a seed fund to support ideation and development of early stage startups.

Mid-sized companies will also have their "handholding support" extended, through assistance with technology upgrades, R&D, and business strategy.

"We wish to open up vistas for a vibrant and dynamic economy with a gentle breeze of new technology," she said.

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