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November 18, 2022updated 13 Feb 2023 5:58pm

Quantum computing high on the enterprise agenda – study

Tech leaders stand ready to invest millions in quantum technology even though it remains in its infancy.

By Ryan Morrison

Business leaders expect to see commercialised quantum computing within the next five years, a new study has revealed, with 61% of those responding saying they plan to invest $1m or more in the technology within the next three years and 10% planning to pump more than $20m into quantum resources.

IQM is building task specific 5 qubit quantum computers for clients in finance and medicine where it has benefit today over classical machines (Photo: IQM)
Quantum computers are often task-specific today with relatively low numbers of qubits but are growing at a rapid rate. (Photo by IQM/Shutterstock)

The research, by venture capital company OpenOcean, quantum computing company IQM and tech investor Lakestar, polled 174 business leaders and found that they are investing now or plan to invest in quantum computing and 70% are developing real-life use cases for the technology.

Quantum computing presents a potential paradigm shift in the way we process information and could solve problems not possible with classical computers – but many experts say that point is still at least a decade away requiring millions of qubits, or units of quantum processing. The fastest quantum processors available today have yet to break 1,000 qubits.

Investment in new quantum hardware and software is growing at a pace, with money coming from both private sector investment companies and central governments keen to ensure dominance in the next generation of computing power.

Billions poured into quantum computing

A 2021 study from McKinsey found that private investors had put more than $1.7bn into quantum computing start-ups last year, double the amount raised in 2020 and a report from the World Economic Forum published in September found that to date $35.5bn in public and private money had been poured into quantum technology.

“Aside from public funds (where China and the EU lead the way in terms of money deployed), to date almost half of all investment in the sector has come from venture capital funds,” explained Ross McNaughton, partner at law firm Taylor Wessing in a blog post.

“Of this, approximately 90% of that amount has been invested at seed and growth stages. The balance of the funds has come from corporates, other private sources, the angel investment community and accelerators.”

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Companies looking to bring quantum into their workflow over the next decade are also looking to heavily invest, with 28% of those responding to the State of Quantum survey planning to invest between $5m and $20m and 10% looking to put more than $20m into quantum.

Sectors like cyber security, finance and healthcare are among the most likely to invest in the technology and expect the most immediate return on investment.

That money is being well spent, according to the new State of Quantum report, stating that: “As investment figures in quantum hardware and software rise, a thriving ecosystem of industry customers continues to grow – each party backing the technology to achieve commercialisation in the next decade with significant R&D budgets.”

Despite a strong desire to invest in quantum, with 91% of those questioned planning on or already exploring use cases for the technology, “there is a fundamental gap between the speed and direction of the development of quantum technologies and what industry customers are ready and planning for,” the report states.

Goodbye CIO, hello chief quantum officer?

“Hype and exaggerated promises cloud our understanding of quantum technology. Many potential industry customers have heard of the technology, without ever going deeper into understanding its value for their business,” the authors wrote.

Many of the people responding felt that the drive for adopting quantum would come from the top, with 64% saying the chief quantum officer role will become almost as important as the CIO. The authors of the report wrote: “As boardrooms assess the rapid advancement of quantum computing and the multiple opportunities it can offer their companies commercially; a dedicated quantum leadership position of a chief quantum officer will become essential.”

“Having focused leadership will be vital in taking steps to address the quantum skills shortages that are holding back progress and build a long-term people strategy for investment and adoption of the technology.”

Issues finding people with a deep understanding of quantum technology was cited as one of the largest barriers to wide-scale adoption in the report with 58% of business leaders surveyed confirming that a lack of in-house skills or a qualified workforce is hampering their use and adoption of quantum and 76% agreeing that the skills crisis is causing a deceleration in innovation.

The skills shortage will need to be addressed quickly as 63% of respondents believe that commercialised quantum computing will hit the market in five years and 90% believe that by 2030, their company’s operations will have been transformed by quantum computing.

Other areas of concern tech leaders said were holding back quantum included the overall immaturity of the technology, a lack of developer skills, difficulties integrating with existing technologies and a lack of adequate budget. There were also security concerns and worries over the actual benefits in terms of performance.

"There is a renewed focus on the need to support the development and advancement of full-stack quantum technologies," the report authors wrote. "Alongside a prioritisation of investment in software, industry customers in our survey view running quantum hardware as currently unsustainable for their operations, pointing to the significant proportion of budgets needed to operate quantum hardware".

Markus Pflitsch, CEO and founder at Terra Quantum wrote in the report that the solution lies in software with quantum software having the potential to grow and thrive as hardware improves. "Quantum hardware continues to scale, accelerating performance as native quantum chips start to advance and eventually outperform simulated qubits."

The challenge, he says, is winning over unconvinced potential customers who don't see a future within their company for quantum computing and he says the solution is to present the technology in their language, outlining ways it can lead to performance enhancements.

Read more: Is quantum machine learning ready for primetime?

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