NSF awards $1M to CQE-led coalition to strengthen quantum technologies in the Midwest

Project will develop plans for commercializing quantum technologies and scaling the quantum workforce

A coalition led by the Chicago Quantum Exchange has been awarded a $1 million US National Science Foundation Regional Innovation Engines (NSF Engines) Development Award to deepen partnerships and strengthen workforce and economic development plans for Chicagoland’s growing quantum ecosystem.

The NSF Engines Development Award: Advancing quantum technologies in the Midwest, effective April 15, will be used by the multi-sector coalition to build data-driven strategies aimed at translating lab research into real-world applications and training workers for the fast-growing quantum economy. Quantum technologies, which harness the unusual properties of nature’s smallest scales, are poised to transform society by enabling unhackable communications, secure financial transactions, accelerated drug discovery, optimized supply chains, and more. 

“The Chicago region is already a key hub for the development of quantum technologies that will significantly strengthen our economic and national security,” said David Awschalom, the Liew Family Professor of Molecular Engineering in the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering, the director of the CQE, and the principal investigator of the NSF Engines project. “But to realize these goals we need to grow our commercialization activities and build a workforce big enough to meet the growing demand — gaps that our deeply engaged ecosystem is well-suited to address, with the right support. This NSF Engines award acknowledges our region’s leadership in the field, and it is another important step toward our quantum future.”

The $1 million NSF Engines Development award is part of the first-ever NSF Engines competition, a program established by the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 to ensure that the US remains globally competitive in key technology areas.

The award comes on the heels of the region’s designation as a US Tech Hub for quantum technologies, which was announced by the White House and the US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) in October. As a part the Tech Hubs program, a separate CQE-led coalition is vying for up to $70 million for projects aimed at developing quantum technology solutions for pressing societal challenges by accelerating industry adoption.

Both the EDA designation and NSF award reflect the region’s position as a major player driving US leadership in quantum, one fueled by collaboration among colleges and universities, industry leaders, national labs, state and municipal governments, and economic and workforce development nonprofits—partnerships the CQE has been instrumental in catalyzing.

The CQE, which is based at UChicago and anchored by the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and Northwestern University, includes more than 40 corporate, international, nonprofit, and regional partners. All CQE members and many of its partners, along with governments, colleges, and other stakeholders, are part of the NSF Engines project. Many are also a part of The Bloch Quantum, the group competing for Tech Hubs funding.

The Chicago region, which has already received millions of dollars in corporate and government investment, is home to some of the world’s leading experts in quantum information science, a broad and well-distributed industry base, a vibrant startup culture that includes the nation’s first quantum startup accelerator, four of the 10 National Quantum Initiative Act research centers, and infrastructure that includes one of the nation’s longest quantum networks. In a recent show of support, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker asked state legislators for half a billion dollars for quantum technologies in his FY2025 budget proposal.

For more information about the NSF Engines program, visit