Published: Oct. 23, 2023 By

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet visited campus Oct. 20, and the trip to campus became an unexpected cause for celebration about Colorado’s place in the nation’s burgeoning quantum ecosystem.

As Bennet toured JILA—a partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and one of the nation’s leading research institutes in the physical sciences—and various labs, he celebrated an announcement by Gov. Jared Polis hours earlier that the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration had designated Colorado’s Elevate Quantum consortium a Regional Technology Hub for Quantum Information Technology (QIT).

The Tech Hubs Program designation, announced by the White House today and enacted as part of the Chips and Science Act of 2022, is designed to drive regional technology and innovation. The designation positions Colorado to apply for and secure federal funding opportunities to advance the industry.

Sen. Michael Bennet visits with JILA researchers Sen. Micahel Bennet speaks with faculty and staff at the Renee Crown Wellness Institute Sen. Michael Bennet visits with Reiland Rabaka, Regent Wanda James, Chancellor Philip DeStefano and students at the Center for African and African American Studies (CAAAS) Sen. Michael Bennet visits with Reiland Rabaka, founder and director of the Center for African and African American Studies (CAAAS)

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“Congratulations to all of you,” Bennet told the CU group, noting that he would make sure the state got the next part of this “across the finish line.” 

The designation is partially a result of focused energy by a Colorado consortium of: 13 institutions of higher education including CU Boulder, 17 companies and industry groups, 17 economic development organizations, 14 labor and workforce organizations, four state and local governments, and seven others including five federal labs. 

QIT will shape the next century as profoundly as integrated circuits or the internet shaped the previous one, according to leaders in the field. Its applications will span from climate tech and pharmaceuticals to defense and finance.

Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation Massimo Ruzzene highlighted the goals of quantum efforts at CU: to become the top ranked university in quantum science; to be the first university nationwide to truly connect with the state economy; and to develop clear pathways to technology transfer.

“We’re excited about this,” Ruzzene said. “We’re ready.”

Mechanical Engineering Professor Greg Rieker talked about his work on campus and as co-founder and CTO of LongPath Technologies, a company that now has 45 employees and contracts with major energy companies. Using quantum sensing, LongPath is able to see if methane gas is escaping from oil and gas operations so that leaks—both costly to companies and polluting—can be plugged. 

While on campus, Bennet also paid a visit to the Renée Crown Wellness Institute to learn about the impactful and innovative work being done through the institute, as well as the Center for Resilience + Well-Being and Student Health and Wellness Services to  support youth mental health and wellness on campus and statewide.

Joined for portions of the day by CU regents Lesley Smith and Wanda James, Bennet wrapped up his visit at the Center for African and African American Studies (CAAAS) at Macky Auditorium. There, he met with students for over an hour and was welcomed by Chancellor Philip DiStefano. Students asked the senator a wide range of questions, ranging from how to erase the economic wealth gap; affordable housing; health care; education, democracy and the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Bennet’s visit was organized by the CU system Office of Government Relations in partnership with CU Boulder’s Office of Government and Community Engagement.