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Quantum’s a step change in technology with distinct challenges; take advantage of specialists

Julian van Velzen
14 Jul 2022

Quantum is challenging. We believe a range of factors, including partners and collaborations, are important to understand for businesses that are starting to get involved in quantum

As we discussed in our previous blog post, What if quantum technology could solve the world’s biggest challenges, Quantum is predicted to have a huge impact on the world during the next decade and beyond. Quantum computing, for example, using quantum properties and algorithms, can perform complex computations exponentially faster than classical supercomputers, contributing to optimal molecular design in drug discovery, maximized fluid dynamics in aerospace, and more accurate financial risk models. And quantum sensing can be used to make advances in medical diagnosis and autonomous transport. Business leaders looking to secure the benefits of this quantum revolution will require an entirely new technology stack, with fresh partners, collaborations, and policies.

Let’s be clear, quantum computing doesn’t fit neatly into the traditional model of classical computing. Just as deep learning evolved from a combination of processing power and neurobiological advances, and synthetic biology is evolving from a mix of computer science and nanotechnology, so quantum is being born from a new blend of disciplines, tools, and skills.

This fresh combination of requirements is a step change in technology. It requires access to financial and research resources that are far beyond the means of a single enterprise. For now, the baton for quantum has been picked up by technology companies. These resource-rich giants, such as IBM, are leading the charge and developing nascent quantum computers.

Riding the wave – quantum technology is not a single entity

Yet it’s also important to recognize that quantum technology is far from a single entity. While computing receives the most attention, other quantum technologies – notably quantum sensing and quantum communication – are forming key elements of this revolution. However, each of these quantum technologies is at a different stage of maturity.

That variability in development creates an issue for business leaders who might be keen to explore quantum. Yes, it will in time change how organizations find answers to intractable questions, but quantum is not yet mature enough to meet ever-growing expectations around its potential.

So, when should business leaders dive into quantum? Is there a way to ride the crest of the quantum wave when it does start to mature? Our recent report, Quantum technologies: How to prepare your organization for a quantum advantage now, looks at the current uptake of quantum initiatives within business, and we believe there is a range of factors that are important to understand for businesses that are starting to get involved in quantum.

Complex, interdisciplinary, and expensive

Quantum is both multi- and inter-disciplinary. It draws on a range of science and technology areas, from quantum mechanics and quantum physics to advanced artificial intelligence, security, and infrastructure and onto mathematics. As quantum evolves and matures, and moves into an operational stage, it will become increasingly interconnected with an organization’s existing technology stack. Companies will need to address this issue as they move towards a hybrid infrastructure.

Quantum technologies are also expensive and complex to design. They are built with precision, and they operate, in many cases, at very low temperatures. Qubits – or quantum bits, the basic units of information in quantum computing – are fragile, unstable, and prone to errors. The expense involved in creating complex quantum systems means deep pockets are crucial – and that’s where well-funded tech giants and venture capital-backed startups play a crucial role in leading the quantum charge.

Developing relevant use cases

While quantum exploration has been mainly focused on research work in the lab until now, the technology will slowly move into the enterprise, and this transition will rely on the identification of potential realistic use cases.

However, it will not be easy to identify where the quantum advantage lies. It’s hard to assess the value of quantum because the technology remains at a nascent stage of development. And without identifying a strong sense of commercial or competitive value, business leaders will struggle to allocate the right level of research resources and funding.

Further complexity comes from the fact that specialist skills are needed to develop potential use cases. This process relies on a combination of talented individuals, such as scientists, engineers, and technologists, and subject-matter experts from across industry. These highly capable specialists are in short supply because of their deep expertise across a range of specialized areas.

Moving towards an ecosystem approach

From technical concerns to cost considerations and onto skills gaps, business leaders who want to get involved in quantum face a range of complex considerations. No single company will be able to deal with these quantum challenges unless they create an ecosystem of partners that can provide the necessary technical resources and deep expertise.

Our final blog in this series from Pascal Brier, our Chief Innovation Officer, we explain how business leaders can create an ecosystem of complementary specialist partners that will help their organization find its quantum advantage.

Author

Julian van Velzen

Quantum CTIO and Head of Capgemini’s Quantum Lab