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Developing a quantum advantage includes joining an ecosystem of complementary partners

Pascal Brier
21 Jul 2022

Business leaders with the right mindset will reap the rewards of an ecosystem approach to implement a successful quantum strategy and develop a long-term quantum advantage

No single business can expect to manage every aspect of quantum exploration because of the scale of costs and skills involved. As we concluded in our last blog post, business leaders will need to look outside the organization to evaluate, prioritize, and implement a successful quantum strategy – and that’s where an ecosystem approach can pay dividends.

Being part of an ecosystem is crucial to quantum success. Business leaders can use the ecosystem to create an amalgam of quantum expertise, to build the best possible platform, and to plug any skills gaps that appear.

An ecosystem approach also ensures an investment in quantum is not overstretched. Financial resources will be a critical concern because quantum technology requires a broad range of expertise. It’s a pioneering area of technology led by specialists with knowledge in several key areas:

Hardware specialists – Computers, sensors, and infrastructure, from tech giants such as IBM, AWS, and Google to smaller specialists such as Atom, Quandela and Pascal, including quantum cloud and hybrid architectures
Software specialists – Quantum algorithms development, artificial intelligence, and machine learning from companies such as ApexQubit, which uses frontier technology in medicine discovery
Crypto agility and quantum cybersecurity specialists – Security protocols and standards supporting multiple quantum cryptographic primitives and algorithms, such as ISARA
Startups and venture capitalists – Estimates suggest $5 billion of private capital has been invested in quantum technologies since 2002, with $3 billion of this being in 2021 alone .
Academic institutions – Technical institutes, such as Fraunhofer, and universities, including Cambridge and Instituto Superior Técnico, are providing cutting-edge research in quantum theory and practice.

Strong industry examples point the way

Multinational firms, including BMW and Goldman Sachs, are already working across these areas of expertise and developing an ecosystem approach to quantum. The result is an early foothold in a fast-evolving space that should result in a long-term advantage.

Perhaps the most significant examples of a successful ecosystem approach so far are those that bring government and industry together to work on quantum challenges. Many of the applications that these partnerships are investigating concern issues with far-reaching consequences, such as climate change, environmental sustainability, industrial competitiveness, and economic growth.

In these challenging scenarios, the consortium approach is becoming a norm, allowing a collection of knowledgeable parties to tackle intractable issues in partnership. These consortia are driven by core technology firms, blue-chip companies, governments, academic institutions, and other initiatives, such as Horizon Europe, which is the European Union’s research and innovation program.

Take the example of EuroQCI, which is a European Commission initiative led by Airbus. This consortium includes a range of companies and research institutes that are exploring the future design of the European quantum communication network. Other examples of cross-institution consortia include the European Quantum Industry Consortium and the Quantum Economic Development Consortium.

What’s more, a joined-up approach is already helping to forward research into quantum key distribution (QKD), which uses quantum mechanics to develop secure cryptographic protocols. The development of QKD technology is a significant challenge on a global scale. A large ecosystem of players, including hardware providers and software startups, is working to create quantum-based solutions.

Across all these pioneering approaches, one thing remains constant: all organizations must ensure data is used in-line with strong regulatory requirements. Standards-setting bodies, including NIST in the US and ETSI in Europe, are helping to set the agenda and create boundaries for the private and public sector organizations that are working together on quantum technologies.

The right mindset for an ecosystem approach

As outlined in our recent report Quantum technologies: How to prepare your organization for a quantum advantage now, business leaders who want to develop a long-term quantum advantage should explore how to become part of an ecosystem at the earliest opportunity. Successful companies will develop a proactive mindset that supports other ecosystem members as they work together to develop creative solutions to intractable challenges. We think the right mindset includes five key characteristics:

Communication – Working with external partners and across internal business units, as quantum’s impact goes beyond R&D and affects operational activities and processes
Trust – Sharing information, perhaps highly confidential and related to intellectual property, that might not normally be revealed
Collaboration – Fostering a collegiate belief in the potential of complementary skills
Imagination – A willingness to invest in meaningful research with a long-term view rather than just a focus on the top line or short-term revenue streams
Participation – Being active in the wider community through initiatives such as industry events, meetups, and hackathons

Business leaders with the right mindset will reap the rewards of an ecosystem approach.