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A passion for quantum

Tracing a career in quantum, from academia to industry

Sam Genway, a thought leader in emerging technologies and head of industries at Capgemini’s Quantum Lab, shares his fascination for quantum physics and explains how our world really works.

Given that your body is made of atoms – and atoms are mostly composed of empty space – why can’t you walk through a wall? How can a particle also be a wave? How does the concept of temperature emerge from atoms and subatomic particles?

The answer to these questions lies at the most fundamental level known to science: the quantum level. It was conundrums such as these that first drew Sam Genway to study natural sciences at the University of Cambridge.

Sam’s academic research background in quantum theory began with a PhD in quantum physics at Imperial College London and continued as a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Nottingham. As a thought leader in applications of new technology, he now writes articles and speaks at conferences about the transformative opportunities of emerging technologies.

“I always thought quantum physics was the most fascinating area because it brilliantly describes the world around us while being deeply counterintuitive at the same time,” he says. “Even now, I’m fascinated by how our everyday experience is so at odds with quantum reality.”

There’s a rich philosophical area of discussion around how quantum physics challenges our perception of the world, but the theory has repeatedly been shown to be correct, explains Sam. “We’re now at the stage of exploring the potential applications of quantum physics in the context of computing, and my focus at Capgemini is on how our clients can benefit from this technology.”

From the mysterious to the useful

Sam joined Capgemini with the acquisition of Altran in 2020, bringing with him 10 years of industry experience in R&D, with a focus on life sciences and artificial intelligence (AI). Indeed, he says that these two areas continue to hold much promise in terms of quantum computing.

“In a nutshell, quantum computing involves leveraging quantum systems to create a new kind of computer that can perform operations that are only possible because of those quantum systems,” explains Sam. “This might sound quite exotic, but there are actually many potential applications that are a natural fit for quantum computing because they are fundamentally quantum in nature.”

Drug discovery is one such area. “The interaction of molecules with biological entities within the body is fundamentally quantum mechanical, and in some cases is very hard to model using conventional computers,” says Sam. “With quantum computers, however, we will be able to simulate the underlying quantum behavior with unprecedented accuracy.”

In the materials space, the scope for applications may be even greater, such as improving the efficiency of carbon capture technology and optimizing photovoltaics and batteries. “These areas require an understanding of what’s happening at the quantum level – and quantum computing can enable this,” Sam says.

A state of quantum readiness

Sam’s work at Capgemini is about finding a match between potential applications of quantum technology and the needs of clients. “To that end, I spend a lot of my time between clients and our internal research teams, figuring out what we should be investing in and how we take that to market.”

While the commercial application of quantum computing will only come as the hardware matures, his conversations with clients tend to focus on the longer view. “Some of the companies I speak to are willing to go on that journey and invest in collaborations and research because they believe it will be important in the future, even though the scale of quantum computers today is not yet sufficient for commercial applications.”

For Sam, it’s about helping organizations achieve “quantum readiness,” and an important part of this is building the internal skills necessary to take advantage of the technology when it matures. “Also, we discuss how quantum will fit in with everything else they are doing. How do their processes around the edges of the quantum application need to evolve? Maybe a new bottleneck is created. So it’s about the people, the technology, and the wider integration.

“Clients get particularly excited when they realize that, by engaging now and working with the wider quantum community, they get to shape the way the technology develops in their sector.”

Quantum collaboration at scale

Although today Sam is less focused on the academic side of quantum research, his enthusiasm for the subject has only grown over time – and the scale of Capgemini has increased the scope of his research and his opportunities to collaborate.

“Our Quantum Lab spans across the different business lines and units because the area is so far-reaching,” he says. “For example, I work with colleagues from Capgemini Engineering, Capgemini Invent, Insights and Data, and many other units. The variety these individuals bring, both in terms of vocation and geography, makes it an incredibly fertile, interesting space.

“I love sharing the latest research and ideas. It’s such a vibrant, exciting area, full of innovation and creativity, and I’m continually adding items to my quantum reading list far more quickly than I can possibly get through them.” While quantum technology is certain to present further conundrums and scientific mysteries, for those with a curious mindset and collaborative approach, it remains full of promise and potential.

Inside stories


Capgemini’s Quantum Lab enables clients to understand the future of quantum tech and develop strategies to make it a reality