Quantum Procurement - Buying Quantum Technology in 2022
Google search "quantum procurement" in 2022 and you'll discover in the top responses brand names for procurement services unrelated to quantum technology. Switching to "procurement of quantum technology" brings up references to how technology is used in the procurement process. Changing directions to "buying quantum technology" points one to technology stocks or ETF's (exchange traded funds). Quantum technology, compared to its’ digital cousin, is in its’ infancy, and so too is the infrastructure around standards, regulations, and processes like procurement.
WHERE TO SHOP?
So what does that mean for the process of 'shopping' for quantum hardware, software and services today? How is it organized? 1:1 vendor/consumer relationships currently are dominant, especially as large organizations are the prevailing buyers of quantum technology. Potential buyers can look to databases of companies such as that of Quantum Computing Report. Roles like Purchase Assistants are being established by industry players to specialize the skills of quantum procurement.
Over time, structure around procurement will enter the industry. Clarity may come from groups like techUK who are exploring the subject. As well, clarity will derive from quantum consortiums like European Quantum Industry Consortium (QUIC), Quantum Technology and Application Consortium (QUTAC) and QED-C’s Quantum Marketplace which is "connecting providers and users of quantum technology, highlighting what’s available, what’s needed, and the path forward." Consortiums can provide significant insights into member organizations and their offerings for the potential quantum purchaser.
Government procurement, amounting to 12 percent of global GDP in 2018, will be a crucial segment in the quantum space, and organizations like NIST – National Institute of Standards and Technology, the European Commissions’ ICT Standards unit, in concert with consortiums and other industry groups can support integrity in the space through standards for procurement leaders to follow.
MAKING THE QUANTUM SELECTION
Once you’ve identified “where to shop”, how does one make the selection? As a former executive in a large North American bank, I worked closely with procurement teams in the selection of technology vendors and their respective solutions. The dominant factor for me was finding trusted partner(s) yet there are a multitude of factors to consider. Traditional large-scale procurement processes including “Requests for Proposal” or RFP’s demand vast amounts of information including cost, vendor credentials, delivery timelines, product comparisons, technical specs, penalties, seamlessness integration, and more in order to make a buying decision. Simply focusing on the number of logical qubits, quantum volume or advantage over conventional systems is not enough.
If your organization is new to quantum, you may be focused on the more introductory end of the quantum product or service scale. For example, Multiverse’s Singularity platform for example is designed as a “simple access point to our quantum solutions without needing an advanced tech degree” according Multiverse’s Head of Business Development, Bob Dameron. Alternatively your priority may be cost, so are their free (or free embedded) demo periods and training on quantum platforms? Amazon’s AWS Braket is one of many examples with free offerings.
In working with procurement teams, we often relied on industry benchmarks, where available, to support the buying decision, however at this stage of quantum maturity, that’s not a widespread option. In the absence of a standardized, widely accepted benchmarking system, buyers will need to focus elsewhere. In 2022, SupermarQ made its appearance as a pioneering entry into the quantum benchmarking void - a “suite of application-oriented benchmarks used to measure the performance of quantum computing systems”. SupermarQ offers insights into circuit and score – helpful to generate the benchmarking circuit and evaluate its performance after execution on hardware. Notably, BCG offered a comparison of quantum computer benchmarking alternatives in 2022 evaluating the pros and cons of various systems and application benchmarks.
Any new technology must suffer through the growing pains of establishing an infrastructure to support it long term. The process of procurement is well established elsewhere however quantum procurement requires a dedicated effort to mature.
Laura is techUK’s Head of Programme for Technology and Innovation.
She supports the application and expansion of emerging technologies, including Quantum Computing, High-Performance Computing, AR/VR/XR and Edge technologies, across the UK. As part of this, she works alongside techUK members and UK Government to champion long-term and sustainable innovation policy that will ensure the UK is a pioneer in science and technology
Before joining techUK, Laura worked internationally as a conference researcher and producer covering enterprise adoption of emerging technologies. This included being part of the strategic team at London Tech Week.
Laura has a degree in History (BA Hons) from Durham University, focussing on regional social history. Outside of work she loves reading, travelling and supporting rugby team St. Helens, where she is from.
Rory joined techUK in June 2023 after three years in the Civil Service on its Fast Stream leadership development programme.
During this time, Rory worked on the Government's response to Covid-19 (NHS Test & Trace), school funding strategy (Department for Education) and international climate and nature policy (Cabinet Office). He also tackled the social care crisis whilst on secondment to techUK's Health and Social Care programme in 2022.
Before this, Rory worked in the House of Commons and House of Lords alongside completing degrees in Political Economy and Global Politics.
Today, he is techUK's Programme Manager for Emerging Technologies, covering dozens of technologies including metaverse, drones, future materials, robotics, blockchain, space technologies, nanotechnology, gaming tech and Web3.0.