Quantum technologies and the question of ‘tipping points’ for commercial adoption
Quantum technologies will bring about a fundamental transformation of business and society. By manipulating the world at microscopic level, they will – in the right places – deliver results that can’t be matched by any other technology. Quite understandably then, many business leaders are asking the obvious question – when will they deliver results for me?
The question might be obvious, but the answer is not clearcut. The timescales over which quantum technologies will have an impact will vary based on the industry. If we take the ‘tipping point’ as the moment when a quantum commercial application has reached critical mass, then that moment might be two years away – or 20 years away. Tantalisingly though, smart investment in the right building blocks has the potential to bring your tipping point forward.
I’m sure the question will generate plenty of conversations at next week’s techUK summit, ‘Supercharging innovation into action’. I’m looking forward to speaking during the quantum emerging technology session. We’ll be debating how the UK can encourage adoption of this nascent group of technologies, which includes quantum computing, sensing and communications.
The topline from me and my colleagues at Cambridge Consultants? The advice is not to sit back and wait to see what happens. Our quantum team, comprised of quantum physicists, quantum algorithm experts and business strategists, is unanimous that the sooner businesses start road-mapping their quantum journey the better.
In the near term, use cases will only be discovered by experimental engagement – by having a go, having an ambitious mindset. There’ll be no cliff edge to jump off into the quantum world. Instead, there will be a gradual slope towards adoption. The enticing bit is that we believe there is tangible commercial value to be had along that slope.
A ‘wait and see’ strategy could actually represent an irreversible setback for individual businesses. When the tipping point hits in their sector, it will be tough to implement a quantum technology solution when they have no idea how the quantum components fit with the rest of their system. It will take huge time, cost and effort to rectify that. Not only will value be slow to realise from poorly developed solutions that are inferior to those of early adopters, but their business will have an uphill struggle filling their skills gap with talent.
Our view here at CC is that informed investment in quantum will mitigate the risks of ‘wait and see’ and allow value to be realised early. There’s more. The initial cost will be smaller than expected. (They don’t need to actually build a quantum computer to explore how it will transform their business, sector or preparations for change.) The value of the knowledge they’ve banked will reward them when their tipping point hits, and the development of others can be exploited. We’d also say that the value of quantum is more predictable and certain with the right preparation and investment.
However bullish we might be about this promise, there is scope for the UK to make improvements when it comes to ensuring that the value we generate in pioneering deep tech – AI, biotechnology, quantum and so on – is captured fully by business.
It’s a theme we’re very conscious of at CC, where our role as part of Capgemini Invent is to help clients find protectable, long-term value from the emerging technologies. If we as a country are to develop a pioneering and globally admired quantum economy, then we need to build strong bridges between research and application, between lab bench and scaled operations.
If you’re going to be at the Tech and Innovation Summit, I look forward to seeing you there and perhaps chewing over some of these themes. Meanwhile, if you’d like some more background reading on the subject, the CC team has put together a report to cut through the current hype and help businesses plot their path towards quantum adoption.
You can download a copy via this link: Quantum technology needs deep tech thinking.