In this blog I will be focussing on the UK’s take up of quantum computing as an emerging, powerful tool for businesses. Leading newspapers have been reporting the recent technological achievement by Google in demonstrating “quantum supremacy” or at least a major advance in the capability of quantum computing hardware. IBM has also been making important progress with its hardware.
The prospect of quantum computing being used for commercially valuable applications is drawing nearer. But is the UK ready to exploit the enormous potential of quantum computing? UK government initiatives in supporting the development of quantum computing (and quantum technologies as a whole) have been highly laudable and indeed world leading in many respects. That support has been a great help and the new round of funding over the next 5 years will maintain this helpful environment. Of course, government help does not make a business system and the onus is now on commerce and industry to take on the mantle of driving forward converting quantum computing into a valuable business tool.
There are some key challenges to be overcome. Firstly businesses need to begin actively engaging with quantum computing to understand the potential of the technology to, initially, make incremental gains in operational performance and, as the quantum computing matures, become a key enabler of competitiveness gains. Some leading companies, mainly with a high tech component, are already doing this but the impact will be much more widespread. The challenge is to stimulate business with the excitement for radical improvements that quantum computing is expected to bring and so overcome inertia and “get involved”.
A second key challenge is that quantum computing today is a highly technical area. This means companies in most cases will want to access external expert support to guide them through their initial exploration of the potential of quantum computing to impact their business. Yet today, as a new computing sector, there are relatively few options available to provide that support. We have the potential for a “chicken and egg” scenario. So we need to grow the support ecosystem for businesses. That means promoting the creation of companies able to provide that support as well as facilitating bringing companies into contact with the relatively closed academic world where vast majority of quantum computing capability resides today. Some government and university led initiatives are addressing this shortfall but they need to be accelerated and on a suitable scale.
A third challenge is for the industry itself. Quantum computing needs to be demystified and the admitted complexities of the technology need to be embedded within more user-friendly software. Developments of this nature are underway but there is some significant way to go before quantum computing will become easily accessible to those without specialist technical training.
Finally we need to train up many more quantum familiar and indeed quantum computing experts to enable proper exploitation of this “wonder” technology. Part of the challenge is that quantum computing programming techniques are themselves still in their early stages and they will need input from end users to help develop the best algorithms and applications suited to business use.
This is quite a challenging list of challenges! Nonetheless we need to overcome them for the UK to stay at the forefront of this fast evolving technology. My message is get involved now!
Tim Thomas, CEO of AppliedQubit.
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