Photonic detection beyond single photons

From: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

NRC is seeking a solution that will enable us to detect and distinguish photon number states up to 5-10 photons at various wavelengths including 800nm and 1550nm for development of photonic quantum technologies; the photon number resolving detection technology should operate above 200kHz rate with software and hardware integration to allow for automatic calibration and data collection.

Challenge sponsor: National Research Council of Canada (NRC)

Funding mechanism: Contract

Opening date: December 2, 2020
Closing date: January 27, 2021, 14:00 Eastern Standard Time

Please refer to the tender notice for this challenge on Buy and Sell.

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Challenge

Problem statement

NRC's Security and Disruptive Technologies (SDT) research centre hosts photonic quantum technology research with focus on solid-state sources, interfaces, and ultrafast quantum optics, with applications in secure quantum communications, quantum sensing, and quantum computation. Photon detection technologies are an essential component in the development of photonic quantum technologies. This has so far been limited to single photon detection with superconducting nanowire detectors, avalanche photodiodes, and single photon cameras. Resolving photon number states is critical to unlock many possibilities in photonic quantum technologies. Photon-number-resolving (PNR) detectors will enable NRC scientists to pursue exciting new approaches to quantum sensing, communication, and processing. From a sensing perspective, researchers will be able to make phase measurements approaching the Heisenberg limit – nature's absolute limit of sensitivity. Researchers will be able to validate the creation and use of exotic number states, and entangled states, which are a necessary resource for quantum networks and processing.

In this challenge, NRC is seeking demonstration of photon-number-resolving detection technology at rates in excess of 200kHz and wavelengths around 800nm and 1550nm. NRC is particularly interested in integrated systems that include automated calibration software and hardware, and automated data collection and analysis software for a user-friendly operation with ability to operate 12 detectors simultaneously. To harness the potential of PNR detection, NRC will require photon-number-resolution capability of at least 5-10 photons per detector. In addition, demonstration of high-rate sources of photons at both 1550nm and 800nm, integrated with the detection system, is required for consideration of phase 2 procurement. True PNR detectors have been demonstrated only in research laboratories using Transition Edge Sensors (TES), with operation rates on the order of 100 kHz. At present, these demonstrations require significant time for manual calibration, preventing scaling up to simultaneous operation of multiple detectors. Moving from research grade detectors to a user-friendly commercial product is a significant scientific and technical challenge.

Desired outcomes and considerations

Essential (mandatory) outcomes

Proposed solutions must:

  1. Be able to operate at a repetition rate of at least 200 kHz.
  2. Provide 6 separate detectors that operate at 1550 ± 20nm and 6 more that operate at 800 ± 10nm.
  3. Have capability to add at least 12 extra detectors in the future
  4. Have peak single photon detection efficiency in excess of 90% in each operating wavelength range (or "window").
  5. Be able to distinguish photon numbers up to 10 with a confidence level in excess of 80%, for each individual detector in the 1550nm window, for photon bandwidths below 1THz.
  6. Be able to distinguish photon numbers up to 5 with a confidence level in excess of 80%, for each individual detector in the 800nm window, for photon bandwidths below 1THz.
  7. Be "turn-key automated" such that any calibration, adjustments or cycling can be performed by a non-specialist.
  8. If the solution requires cryogenic cooling then the cryostat must be included in the product. The operation of the cryogenics must be automated such that it can be operated by a non-specialist.
  9. Include a turn-key source of pulsed classical light within the 1550nm window, and a pulsed source of classical light within the 800nm window, for calibration and testing of detectors. The light sources must have repetition rate of 100kHz or above.
  10. Include a device for generating "squeezed" quantum light at 1550nm for use in experiments. The device must be research-grade, allowing NRC researchers to integrate it with their existing laser sources and experiments.

Additional outcomes

Proposed solutions should:

  1. Be able to distinguish photon numbers up to 20 with a confidence level of 80%.
  2. The detectors should have broadband operation, operating at the required specifications in the ranges 800 ± 50nm and 1550 ± 100nm.
  3. Operate at repetition rate greater than 1MHz.

Background and context

The Canadian government has identified quantum technology as one of the major growth opportunities for research, development, and industry in the coming years. In 2017, McKinsey and Co. ranked Canada 5th globally in total annual expenditures on quantum science ($100M Euros) and 1st among G7 nations in per-capita spending on quantum research. In tune with the development strategies of other leading nations, Canada's government departments and granting organizations are driving research excellence and commercialization with strategic investments. For example, Canada and the UK have established a partnership to accelerate the commercialization of quantum technologies. Recognizing their likely role as early adopters of quantum technology, Communications Security Establishment, Canadian Space Agency, and Defence Research and Development Canada are also investing in multiple areas.

Photonic quantum technology is one of the promising approaches to quantum communication, quantum sensing, and quantum computation. The technology relies on efficient, high-rate, and precise photon generation, modulation, and detection. Photon-generation schemes are capable of creating multi-photon states which can be used for novel applications in quantum technology. Commercially available photon detectors have so far enabled single photon detection. Multi-photon states can be measured by multiplexing several single-photon detectors, but this method operates with probabilistic success rates and is therefore not scalable. The limitation in measuring photon number states is currently preventing us from encoding and processing quantum information in the photon number basis. Eliminating this limitation will allow us to generate and characterize multi-photon states, with significant impact in quantum communication, quantum sensing, and quantum computation.

Maximum contract value and travel

Multiple contracts could result from this Challenge.

Phase 1:

  • The maximum funding available for any Phase 1 contract resulting from this Challenge is: $150,000.00 CAD excluding applicable taxes, shipping, travel and living expenses, as required.
  • The maximum duration for any Phase 1 contract resulting from this Challenge is: 6 months (excluding submission of the final report).
  • Estimated number of Phase 1 contracts: 2

Phase 2:

  • The maximum funding available for any Phase 2 contract resulting from this Challenge is: $1,000,000.00 CAD excluding applicable taxes, shipping, travel and living expenses, as required.
  • The maximum duration for any Phase 2 contract resulting from this Challenge is: 24 months (excluding submission of the final report).
    • Note: Only eligible businesses that have completed Phase 1 could be considered for Phase 2.
  • Estimated number of Phase 2 contracts: 1

This disclosure is made in good faith and does not commit Canada to award any contract for the total approximate funding. Final decisions on the number of Phase 1 and Phase 2 awards will be made by Canada on the basis of factors such as evaluation results, departmental priorities and availability of funds. Canada reserves the right to make partial awards and to negotiate project scope changes.

Note: Selected companies are eligible to receive one contract per phase per challenge.

Travel

Kick-off meeting

Ottawa, ON*

Progress review meeting(s)

Any progress review meetings will be conducted by videoconference or teleconference.

Final review meeting

Ottawa, ON*

All other communication can take place by telephone, videoconference, and WebEx.

*Due to Covid-19, the kick-off meeting and final review meeting will have the flexibility of being a video or teleconference due to travel issues and other restrictions.

Eligibility

Solution proposals can only be submitted by a small business that meets all of the following criteria:

  • for profit
  • incorporated in Canada (federally or provincially)
  • 499 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employeesFootnote *
  • research and development activities that take place in Canada
  • 50% or more of its annual wages, salaries and fees are currently paid to employees and contractors who spend the majority of their time working in CanadaFootnote *
  • 50% or more of its FTE employees have Canada as their ordinary place of workFootnote *
  • 50% or more of its senior executives (Vice President and above) have Canada as their principal residenceFootnote *

Evaluation Criteria

The official source of the Evaluation Criteria for this challenge is the Government Electronic Tendering System (Buy and Sell) https://buyandsell.gc.ca/procurement-data/tender-notice/PW-20-00899125)

In the event of a discrepancy between the information below and the information published on Buy and Sell, Buy and Sell will take precedence.

The Bidder must complete the Challenge Stream Electronic Submission Form with a degree of information sufficient to enable Canada's assessment of the proposal against the criteria and the Evaluation Schema. The information must demonstrate how the proposal meets the criterion.

Part 1: Mandatory Criteria

Proposals must meet all mandatory criteria identified by achieving a "Pass" in order to proceed to Part 2. Proposals that do not meet all mandatory criteria will be deemed non-responsive and given no further consideration.

Mandatory Criteria

(Bidder's proposal must address)

Question 1 a: Scope

Describe the proposed solution and demonstrate how it responds to the challenge. Include in your description the scientific and technological basis upon which the solution is proposed and clearly demonstrate how the solution meets all of the Essential Outcomes (if identified) in the Desired Outcomes section in the Challenge Notice.

Evaluation Schema (Mandatory — Pass/Fail)

Pass

The Bidder's proposed solution is clearly articulated, within the scope for the challenge and addresses all Essential Outcomes (if identified) in the Challenge Notice.

Fail

The proposed solution is articulated as out of scope for the challenge.
OR
The proposal does not clearly demonstrate how the proposed solution addresses all Essential Outcomes listed in the challenge.
OR
The proposed solution is poorly described and does not permit concrete analysis.
OR
There is little to no scientific and/or technological evidence that the proposed solution is likely to meet the challenge.

Question 2: Current Technology Readiness Level (TRL)
  1. Indicate the current TRL of the proposed solution. (Drop Down Menu of the Challenge Stream Electronic Submission Form)
  2. Describe the research and development activities that have taken place to bring the proposed solution to the stated TRL.
Evaluation Schema (Mandatory — Pass/Fail)

Pass

The Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution is currently between TRLs 1 and 6 (inclusive), and provided justification by explaining the research and development (R&D) that has taken place to bring the solution to the stated TRL.

Fail

The Bidder has not provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the current TRL is between 1 to 6 (inclusive) including:

  1. There is insufficient/no evidence provided for TRL judgment.
  2. The solution involves the development of basic or fundamental research.
  3. The solution is demonstrated at TRL 7 or higher.
  4. Insufficient/unclear/no justification explaining the R&D that took place to bring the solution to the stated TRL.
  5. The explanation simply paraphrases the description of a given TRL level.
Question 3a: Innovation

Demonstrate how the proposed solution meets one or more of the ISC definitions of innovation below:

  1. An invention*, new technology or new process that is not currently available in the marketplace.
  2. Significant modifications to the application of existing technologies/components/processes that are applied in a setting or condition for which current applications are not possible or feasible.
  3. An improvement in functionality, cost or performance over an existing technology/process that is considered state-of-the-art or the current industry best practice.

* An "invention" is defined for the purposes of ISC as: "A manufacturing design or any other new and useful improvement that is new or novel, that is, not commonly known or not an obvious derivative of an existing way of doing things."

Evaluation Schema (Mandatory — Pass/Fail)

Pass

The Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution meets one or more of the ISC definitions of innovation.

Fail

The Bidder has not provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the current TRL is between 1 to 6 (inclusive) including:

  • Bidder has not provided sufficient evidence to demonstrate that the proposed solution meets any of the ISC definitions of innovation; OR
  • Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution is an incremental improvement, "good engineering", or a technology that would go ahead in the normal course of product development (i.e. the next version or release).
Question 3b: Advance on State of the Art

Describe in detail the competitive advantages and level of advancement over existing technologies. Where appropriate, name existing technologies as well as potential substitutes or competitors.

To demonstrate this, proposals should include the following information:

  • Improvements (minor or major) over existing technologies or substitutes. Use direct comparison.
  • How the proposed innovation will create competitive advantages in existing market niches or market spaces.
Evaluation Schema (Mandatory Criteria — Pass/Fail + Points)

0 points/Fail:

  • The Bidder has not demonstrated that the proposed solution advances the state-of-the-art over existing technologies, including available competing solutions; OR
  • The proposed solution improves minimally upon the current state of the art, though not sufficiently enough to create competitive advantages in existing market niches; OR
  • The stated advancements are described in general terms but are not substantiated with specific, measurable evidence.

5 points/Pass:

  • The Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers one or two minor improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions that have potential to create competitive advantages in existing market niches.

12 points/Pass

  • The Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers three or more minor improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions, that together are likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches; OR
  • The Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers one significant improvement to existing technologies that is likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches

20 points/Pass:

  • The Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution offers two or more significant improvements to existing technologies, including available competing solutions that are likely to create competitive advantages in existing market niches and could define new market spaces; OR
  • The Bidder has demonstrated that the proposed solution can be considered a new benchmark of state of the art that is clearly ahead of competitors and that is likely to define new market spaces

Part 2: Point-Rated Criteria

Proposals must meet the overall minimum pass mark of 50% to be deemed responsive. Proposals that do not achieve the minimum pass mark will be declared non-responsive and given no further consideration.

Point-Rated Criteria

(Bidder's proposal to address)

Question 1b: Scope

Demonstrate the scientific and technological basis of how the proposed solution addresses the Additional Outcomes(if identified) in the Desired Outcomes section in the Challenge Notice. If no Additional Outcomes are identified in the Challenge Notice, text entered in this section will not be considered.

If no Additional Outcomes are identified in the Challenge Notice, Bidders will receive 10 points.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the solution will address any of the Additional Outcomes. 0 points
  2. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the solution will address some (<50%) of the Additional Outcomes. 3 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the solution will address most (50% or more) of the Additional Outcomes. 6 points
  4. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the solution will address all (100%) of the Additional Outcomes. 10 points
Question 4: Phase 1 Science and Technology (S&T) Risks

Describe potential scientific and/or technological risks to the successful development of the proof of feasibility and how they will be mitigated in Phase 1.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the Bidder has considered potential risks and mitigation strategies and/or information provided contains significant gaps. 0 points
  2. Information provided demonstrates that the Bidder has considered some potential risks and associated mitigation strategies but there are minor gaps in risks and/or associated mitigation strategies. 5 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the Bidder has sufficiently considered the risks and defined associated mitigation strategies. 10 points
Question 5: Phase 1 Project Plan

Demonstrate a feasible Phase 1 project plan by completing the table.

  • Indicate if any milestones and activities will be completed concurrently
  • Indicate the estimated exit TRL at the completion of Phase 1. (Drop Down Menu of the Challenge Stream Electronic Submission Form)
Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate a feasible project plan for Phase 1 and/or the project plan exceeds the maximum duration indicated in the Challenge Notice. 0 points
  2. Project plan for Phase 1 is conceivably feasible but not clearly demonstrated and/or includes gaps. 10 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates a feasible project plan for Phase 1. 20 points
Question 6: Phase 1 Project Risks

Describe potential project risks to the successful development of the proof of feasibility and how they will be mitigated in Phase 1.

Bidders should address the following risks, as applicable:

  • Human Resources
  • Financial
  • Project Management
  • Intellectual Property
  • Other project-related risks

Note to Bidders: S&T risks should not be included in this section. Question 4 addresses S&T risks.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the Bidder has considered potential risks and mitigation strategies and/or information provided contains significant gaps. 0 points
  2. Information provided demonstrates that the Bidder has considered some potential risks and associated mitigation strategies but there are minor gaps in risks and/or associated mitigation strategies. 5 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the Bidder has sufficiently considered the risks and defined associated mitigation strategies. 10 points
Question 7: Phase 1 Implementation Team

Demonstrate how the project implementation team has the required management and technological skill sets and experience to deliver the project plan for Phase 1 by completing the table. A member of the implementation team can have more than one role.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the project team has the required management and technological skill sets and experience to deliver the Phase 1 project plan. 0 points
  2. Information is provided but there are minor gaps in required management and/or technological skill sets and/or experience to deliver the Phase 1 project plan. 10 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the project team has the required management and technological skill sets and experience to deliver the Phase 1 project plan. 20 points
Question 8: Inclusivity

If your business were to receive funding from Innovative Solutions Canada, describe what actions (e.g., recruitment strategy, internships, co-op placements, etc.) might be taken in Phase 1 to support the participation of under-represented groups (e.g., women, youth, persons with disabilities, Indigenous people, visible minorities) in the research and development of the proposed solution. Each Bidder in their response to this question must focus only on describing relevant programs, policies, or initiatives that it currently has in place or would put in place to support the R&D effort in Phase 1.

Note: Do not provide any personal information of individuals employed by your company or that of your subcontractors in the response.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. No description and/or concrete examples of actions provided that would be taken to encourage greater participation of under-represented groups. 0 points
  2. A description and concrete examples of actions to encourage greater participation of under-represented groups provided. 5 points
Question 9: Phase 1 Financial Proposal

Demonstrate a realistic financial proposal for the Phase 1 project plan by completing the table.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient information provided and/or information provided significantly lack credibility. Does not demonstrate a realistic financial proposal for the Phase 1 project plan. 0 points
  2. Information is provided but some costs lack credibility and/or are unclear for the Phase 1 project plan. 7.5 points
  3. Information provided contains credible elements to clearly demonstrate a realistic financial proposal for the Phase 1 project plan. 15 points
Question 10: Phase 1 Financial Controls, Tracking and Oversight

Describe the financial controls, tracking and oversight that will be used to manage the public funds throughout Phase 1. Bidders should indicate if an individual or firm will be managing the public funds and provide their credentials and/or relevant experience.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate the Bidder's ability to manage public funds in Phase 1. 0 points
  2. Information provided is vague and/or contains gaps. The Bidder has some controls, tracking and/or oversight in place to manage the public funds in Phase 1. 5 points
  3. Information provided clearly demonstrates that the Bidder has strong financial controls, tracking and oversight to manage public funds in Phase 1. 10 points
Question 11: Phase 2 Overview

Demonstrate a realistic overview for the prototype development plan if selected to participate in Phase 2.

Responses should include:

  • key tasks
  • estimated cost for materials
  • human resources
  • project risks and mitigation strategies

Note: A more detailed proposal will be requested if selected to participate in Phase 2.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the Bidder has contemplated a realistic overview for the Phase 2 prototype development. 0 points
  2. Information provided demonstrates a conceivably realistic overview for Phase 2 prototype development, however there are gaps and/or the strategy is vague. 6 points
  3. Information provided demonstrates that the Bidder has a clear and realistic overview. 12 points
Question 12: Commercialization Approach

Demonstrate a realistic overall commercialization approach/business model that can successfully take the technology/service to market, and how the technology/service will help you develop and sell other products.

Responses should include:

  • Target markets (excluding Government of Canada)
  • Non-ISC funding sources
  • Transition to a commercially-ready product or service
  • Any other indicators of commercial potential and commercial feasibility

Note: A more detailed proposal will be requested if selected to participate in Phase 2 or the Testing Stream.

Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Insufficient or no information provided to demonstrate that the proposed solution has commercial potential. 0 points
  2. Some information provided to demonstrate that the proposed solution has commercial potential, however there are gaps in the commercialization approach. 6 points
  3. A realistic commercialization approach is provided that demonstrates that the proposed solution has commercial potential. 12 points
Question 13: Resulting Benefits to Canada

Describe the benefits that could result from the commercialization of the proposed solution. Bidders should consider the potential benefits using the following three categories and provide justification for each claim:

  1. Innovation Benefits: Expected contribution towards the enhancement or development of new industrial or technological innovations within your firm. Responses could include: potential spillover benefits, creation of intellectual property, impact on productivity of the new technology, etc.
  2. Economic Benefits: Forecasted impact on the growth of Canadian firms, clusters and supply chains, as well as its expected benefits for Canada's workforce. Responses could include: number of jobs created, number of high-paying jobs, investment in Canada's economy, etc.
  3. Public Benefits: Expected contribution to the broader public to the degree that the solution is expected to generate social, environmental, health, security or other benefits to Canada. Responses could include: solution-related environmental benefits, solution-related accessibility benefits, and solution-related impact on Indigenous communities.
Evaluation Schema (Point-Rated)
  1. Innovation Benefits
    Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit. 0 points
    Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification. 1 point
    Benefit is significant and well justified. 2 points
  2. Economic Benefits
    Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit. 0 points
    Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification. 1 point
    Benefit is significant and well justified. 2 points
  3. Public Benefits
    Benefit not identified or insufficient claim of benefit. 0 points
    Benefit has marginal increment or limited justification. 1 point
    Benefit is significant and well justified. 2 points

Questions and answers

Please refer to the tender notice for this challenge on Buy and Sell.

All incoming questions regarding this specific challenge should be addressed to SIC-ISC@pwgsc.gc.ca

You can also consult the Frequently asked questions about the Innovative Solutions Canada Program.

A glossary is also available.

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