Oct 4, 2023 - Economy

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker: The U.S. is "under-investing" in AI and quantum computing

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative meeting Sept. 19 in New York City. Photo: John Nacion/WireImage

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker says the nation needs to ramp up its efforts to lead the world in semiconductors and quantum computing, arguing that it's currently "under-investing."

Why it matters: Pritzker, a Democrat, is pursuing the headquarters of the federally created National Semiconductor Technology Center — and he's widely seen as a possible future contender for president.

The big picture: Advanced semiconductors and quantum computing are essential to the future of AI, autonomous vehicles and consumer electronics.

  • "Just look at our major competitor, the Chinese," Pritzker tells Axios in an interview. "They are putting significantly more resources in. We need to step it up."
  • "The good news is we're vastly more innovative than they are," Pritzker adds. "This is what I would describe as a life-and-death matter for the country."

Pritzker tells Axios he's privately lobbied the White House to put the NSTC in Illinois, which is home to the Fermi and Argonne national labs, the Chicago Quantum Exchange, and scientific expertise at places like the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois.

  • On a national basis, though, he says the country's leaders need to be more vocal about the need to invest in quantum computing and semiconductors.
  • "That's going to be vitally important for maintaining support and significantly increasing our investments in quantum," he says.

Meanwhile, Illinois is dealing with the idling of a Ford plant in Chicago that shut down Friday when the United Auto Workers expanded its strike.

  • The factory, which makes the Ford Explorer, Ford Police Interceptor and Lincoln Aviator, has some 4,600 employees.
  • "The UAW members obviously feel strongly — and I do too — that they deserve a raise," he says, adding that "I stand on the side of people having the right to collectively bargain."
  • But he added: "I'm concerned about the effect of a strike on an overall economy. ... Hopefully, there's something significant they can agree upon in the near future."

Go deeper: Illinois makes play for billion-dollar National Semiconductor Technology Center

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