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UT-C's Quantum Center awaits chief, as EPB, ORNL, QT partnerships grow
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THE UNIVERSITY of Tennessee at Chattanooga is said to be "finalizing" its search for the inaugural leader of its rapidly maturing Quantum Center.

According to a detailed description of the new leadership role that was posted on the UTC website Sept. 20, 2023, the Center's chief would carry the title of Professor and Director of Quantum Initiative, Information Science and Engineering. The Center operates within UTC's Research Institute.

As often the case during academic search processes, we've heard no estimate of when the Quantum Center leader might actually take up their duties.

Meanwhile, it's possible UTC's allies may enjoy a fresh ripple of Quantum enthusiasm as early as tomorrow, Jan. 26.

UPDATE: On Jan. 26, EPB and ORNL announced pursuit of advancing "the resilience and security of the national power grid while accelerating the commercialization of quantum technologies," with accompanying strengthening of regional economic and workforce development, as well as sector leadership. Jan. 26 press release here.

Stephen Streiffer PhD

That's when Chattanooga's EPB electric utility CEO David Wade convenes invited guests for an afternoon briefing at EPB headquarters on an as-yet undisclosed 'new collaboration' between EPB and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

During that event tomorrow, ORNL will be represented by Director Stephen Streiffer PhD., who took the ORNL helm nearly six months ago.

Mayor Tim Kelly

During that same event, speakers will include Chattanooga entrepreneur-cum-Mayor Tim Kelly and U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischman JD, whose TN-3rd Congressional District includes Chattanooga and Oak Ridge.

In 2023, Mayor Kelly was among backers for launch of the Gig City Goes Quantum initiative, which was tied to the annual World Quantum Day (April 14 each year).

Rep. Chuck Fleischmann

Fleischmann, of course, is chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives' Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, and he has often focused on nuclear and other energy issues.

In 2016, partly as a result of the congressman's efforts, ORNL opened a Chattanooga office, as noted by ORNL here.


UT Chattanooga launched its initiative in Quantum Information Science and Engineering (QISE) in 2022, citing education, innovation, and economic development as spheres of interest.

A UTC laboratory that is used for research, development and education features connection to the EPB Quantum Network.

During roughly the past decade or more, EPB, Qubitekk, ORNL and other institutions have partnered to advance quantum-forward tech solutions related to scalable cybersecurity, energy-grid security, built-environment energy conservation and other targets.

Going forward, VNC research indicates the UTC Quantum Center's efforts will address challenges associated with use of quantum technology (QT) to improve and develop advanced energy systems (e.g., energy storage systems) and smart-city applications.

The Quantum Center director's major duties include engaging with an advisory group of as-yet undisclosed scope and composition, and organizing "teams to leverage internal funding and partnerships to capture significant extramural funding and build a sustainable portfolio of activities."

Other staff: UTC has also simultaneously been recruiting an assistant- or associate professor, focused on Quantum Information Science and Engineering, with duties described as complementing those of the Quantum Center's incoming director. That job description is here.

One of the major results of Chattanooga's proliferating QT collaborations has been the emergence of the EPB Quantum Network ("Powered by Qubitekk"), described as a quantum as a service (QaaS) offering that enables government, business, entrepreneurs, and university and corporate researchers to run quantum equipment and applications in an established fiber-optic environment, such as EPB's.

Epb CEO David Wade

A few weeks ago, EPB's Wade said in a release that EPB's recent work with Qubitekk and partner Qunnect proved that EPB is "ready to work with developers from across the country here in Chattanooga," with the EPB Quantum Network functioning "as a proving ground for quantum networking developers to validate performance and achieve commercial viability, a critical phase of bringing technologies to market."

Such "market-readiness" signals seem to have drawn steadily increasing attention among a still-widening field of local, regional and national entrepreneurs and strategic players.

This may have contributed to the fact that on Thursday, Feb. 29, a new Chattanooga Quantum Conversations series is to begin with a panel discussion at UT Chattanooga Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Panelists for that event include Charlie Brock, who is identified in a CoLab promotional mailing today as CEO of Chattanooga Quantum Collaborative.

Reinhold Mann PhD

Brock will be joined by Dr. Reinhold Mann, UTC vice chancellor for research; and, Jim Ingraham, EPB VP for strategic research. Registration form here for the event convening at 4:30pm ET.

When VNC asked recently for his views on the UTC Quantum Center, Brock replied, "As Chattanooga develops a strong quantum ecosystem utilizing EPB's commercial quantum network and other regional assets, UTC will play a key role in research, workforce development and programming. The university is already an early customer and partner with the placement of their quantum node on campus, which allows for testing of various quantum use cases. It's exciting to see [UTC] adding key positions in quantum to further this work."

In addition to the pivotal roles of EPB and UTC, Chattanooga's regional entrepreneur center -- The Company Lab, which is led by CEO Tasia Malakasis and Chairman Charlie Brock -- has planted its flag in the data- and infrastructure-intense Sustainable Mobility space. Read more here.

Mina Sartipi PhD

Note: The status update VNC obtained regarding the Quantum Center leadership search was provided in response to a VNC query by Mina Sartipi PhD.

Sartipi is founding director of UTC's Center for Urban Information and Progress (CUIP), a Guerry Professor in UTC's computer science and engineering department, a member of the UTC's Quantum Initiative faculty, among other distinctions.

No virtual feed of tomorrow's EPB event is planned, an EPB spokesperson told VNC this afternoon.

VNC has not yet determined the exact status of the UTC Quantum Center leadership recruitment and onboarding process. This story will be updated, as warranted. VNC

. last edited 1019 26 January 2024

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Tags: Charlie Brock, Chuck Fleischmann, CoLab, Company Lab, cybersecurity, David Wade, electric power, energy grid, EPB, EPB Quantum Network, innovation, Jim Ingraham, Mina Sartipi, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, ORNL, QT, Quantum Center, Quantum computing, Quantum Initiative, Quantum technology, Qubitekk, Qunnect, Reinhold Mann, Stephen Streiffer, Tasia Malakasis, The Company Lab, Tim Kelly, University of Tennessee Chattanooga, utilities

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