Technology  October 9, 2023

Boulder Economic Council chief to lead CUbit Quantum Initiative

BOULDER — CUbit Quantum Initiative, the University of Colorado’s interdisciplinary hub dedicated to the advancement and commercialization of quantum technology, will be led by a face familiar to those in the Boulder business community: Scott Sternberg.

Sternberg, who has served as the Boulder Economic Council executive director and Boulder Chamber associate vice president for economic vitality for the past three years, will take over as CUBit’s new executive director effective Oct. 30.

He succeeds Philip Makotyn, who, according to his LinkedIn profile, was hired last month as president of the American operations at Vexlum, a Finnish laser-technology company.

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“The economic impact from new quantum businesses and the pyramid of all of the resources and expertise that’s being built here for the quantum future is so exciting,” Sternberg, whose resume includes a master’s degree in physics from Colorado State University and prior leadership roles with science and technology companies such as Vaisala Inc., told BizWest on Monday.

Boulder Chamber president John Taylor said Sternberg will participate in the “near-term” transitional phase at the Boulder Economic Council over the next couple of weeks before starting at CUbit. 

“But really soon after that we’re going to be out there looking to identify the talent that we need to fill out our economic vitality team roster,” Tayer said, adding that the chamber is likely to look internally, locally and nationally for Sternberg’s successor. 

Quantum theory attempts to explain the behavior of matter at atomic and subatomic levels. Applications of quantum science could revolutionize the way humans discover new drug therapies, map the cosmos, protect sensitive data, combat climate change and maybe even discover new forms of life.

The quantum field — which Sternberg sums up in a “nutshell as the study of either the very small or the very cold” — is “arguably one of the most exciting and important disciplines” in all of science technology, he said. 

The Boulder Valley — with the world-class University of Colorado Boulder physics department, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and JILA (formerly known as the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics) — has become, over the past three decades or so, the epicenter of quantum research. 

The local business and economic development community has “such a great partnership with the university” and with the region’s other research institutions, Tayer said. Collaboration with entities such as CUbit “is a benefit not only to the chamber and to the university, but to our community as well.”

The region, a leader in evolving quantum discoveries out of the lab and into the marketplace, is home to operations from major corporate players in the still-nascent industry such as Quantinuum, a Broomfield company spun out of Honeywell International Inc. (Nasdaq: HON);  California-headquartered Atom Computing Inc., which opened a Boulder R&D center last year; and ColdQuanta Inc., a Boulder-born firm that does business as Infleqtion that has grown into a worldwide operator with offices as far flung as Austin, Australia and the United Kingdom.

“Boulder has always been on the forefront of developing new technologies and turning them into business enterprises,” Tayer said. “CUbit is a perfect example of that. Our university and our community are at the forefront of quantum physics and its application to new innovations and business opportunities.”

This spring the Colorado Economic Development Commission approved nearly $1.5 million in grant funding from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade for CUbit to use to help commercialize quantum technology developed by CU researchers.

Colorado economic development leaders and state officials see “establishing and promoting Colorado as an epicenter for an area of technology” and “developing of the workforce pipeline” as key areas where public support can move the quantum needle, Michelle Hadwiger, OEDIT deputy director and director of global business development, told BizWest in May when the grant funding was approved.

“New, enabling technologies come on line, and the barrier for growth and acceleration in an industry is really high in terms of startup costs,” she said, and universities and labs often bear the brunt of those startup costs. 

“There’s a role that the government plays” in helping shoulder some of that early-stage cost burden “and leveraging the investment already made” by schools and research facilities, Hadwiger said. 

State leaders expect that OEDIT funding, filtered through CUbit, will help quantum startups leverage additional public dollars, such as Small Business Research Innovation grants from the U.S. Small Business Administration, which often require a match.

BOULDER — CUbit Quantum Initiative, the University of Colorado’s interdisciplinary hub dedicated to the advancement and commercialization of quantum technology, will be led by a face familiar to those in the Boulder business community: Scott Sternberg.

Sternberg, who has served as the Boulder Economic Council executive director and Boulder Chamber associate vice president for economic vitality for the past three years, will take over as CUBit’s new executive director effective Oct. 30.

He succeeds Philip Makotyn, who, according to his LinkedIn profile, was hired last month as president of the American operations at Vexlum, a Finnish laser-technology company.

“The economic impact from new…

Lucas High
A Maryland native, Lucas has worked at news agencies from Wyoming to South Carolina before putting roots down in Colorado.
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