26 Oct 2021

The Quantum Era Is Here: Is Our Workforce Set Up For Success?

Allison Schwartz, Vice-President, Global Government Relations & Public Affairs, D-Wave explores how government, industry and academia can work together to create and nurture quantum talent in the UK. Part of techUK's Quantum Commercialisation Campaign Week. #QuantumUK

Since 1982, when Richard Feynman first theorized a practical quantum computer, the field has been marked by a diversity of opinions – on hardware approaches, scientific theory, best path to commercialization, and more. But one issue has everyone united: There’s a shortage of quantum computing talent.

A well-rounded workforce is key to realizing the full practical value of quantum computing. Yet, experts describe time and again the difficulty in recruiting talent. There isn’t always a direct pipeline from universities, and there’s fierce competition for the limited workforce that is available.

To expand the quantum ecosystem, global stakeholders of all stripes – governments, universities, and private companies – have all engaged in an effort to grow the quantum workforce.

Quantum is Transdisciplinary

Most perceive quantum computing as the bastion of physics, but there is a broader need for multi-disciplinary engagement with diverse communities. The quantum ecosystem requires a workforce with skills encompassing everything from engineering and cryogenics to IP and business strategy. What is often forgotten is that to be successful, users must bring existing skills in data science, materials science, optimization, computer science, and yes, even physics, to ensure the business value of quantum computing is unlocked.

Imagine the day when the marketing organization utilizes quantum computing to optimize the best offers, or when the dev-ops team anticipates threat detection using quantum. To accomplish this, the basics of using practical quantum computing to solve real-world problems should become core to all STEM education programs.

A good example of this cross-disciplinary approach is a new effort from four universities in the United States – the Center for Quantum Technologies (CQT). CQT is a National Science Foundation-backed research program, bringing together transdisciplinary experts across the tech industry, research institutions, academia, and government to translate quantum research into commercial-ready technologies and foster quantum workforce development and training. It’s a great model to learn from.

A Platform-Agnostic Approach is Key

At D-Wave, we look at quantum education in a platform-agnostic way. We’ve built successful commercial annealing systems, but because customers want to access the full breadth of quantum hardware, we recently announced plans to build a gate-model system as well. Each approach holds promises and challenges, and all require talent. It is our job in industry to create a cross-platform approach that enables cloud access to different systems, with powerful, easy-to-use software and tools so that users can invest in a simplified approach to unlock multiple systems.

Quantum education must also be approach-agnostic. Look at the landscape today. We understand some of the emerging use-cases for different systems, but there is a lot the industry still does not yet know. Educating broadly will bring new use cases to life more quickly and affords the opportunity for users of quantum computing to benefit from it all.

Increase Public And Private Support

In the private sector, industries are recognizing the value and promise that quantum holds with early adopters learning alongside quantum experts by building company-specific applications with existing quantum and quantum hybrid technology. Governments are establishing quantum programs including commonwealth countries, like Canada, Australia, and the UK. The EU launched its Quantum Flagship Initiative with significant focus on research, and the U.S. is looking to build a quantum user access program where researchers can gain access to quantum hardware and software systems to build talent and innovate. Universities worldwide are working on quantum master’s and certification programs. These early investments will eventually bear fruit in the form of research and talent development.

Quantum computing’s power to impact critical areas including energy, sustainability, and drug discovery means that broad investment in our workforce is crucial. To build a stronger quantum future, we need to see that investment realized today.

Quantum Commercialisation Week

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Laura Foster

Laura Foster

Head of Technology and Innovation, techUK

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.

[email protected]

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Rory Daniels

Rory Daniels

Programme Manager, Emerging Technologies

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.

[email protected]

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