A Primer on Business-Case Quantum Computing – Part I

A Primer on Business-Case Quantum Computing – Part I

Part I: The rise of the business use-case

A forward push in the R&D timeline of quantum technology could potentially save lives. But it’s prudent to remember that not all research translates into appropriate business use-cases.

“Accelerating advances in quantum computing are serving as powerful reminders that the technology is rapidly advancing toward commercial viability. In just the past few months, for example, a research center in Japan announced a breakthrough in entangling qubits (the basic unit of information in quantum, akin to bits in conventional computers) that could improve error correction in quantum systems and potentially make large-scale quantum computers possible.” – McKinsey & Co.

In fact, the quantum computing market is expected to reach as high as $1.765 billion by 2026 growing at a CAGR of about 30%, with the early adoption of quantum computing in the banking and finance sector expected to fuel the growth of the market globally. Also set to contribute to this are rising investments in research from several countries’ governments focusing on the adoption of QCaaS (Quantum Computing-as-a-Service) post the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accelerating research breakthroughs, a fast-growing ecosystem, and increasing investment in the sector are set to be the driving force in the growth of the quantum computing ecosystem. At this rather early stage of the lifecycle of quantum computing, the most important question today is around the fit between the technology and business problems, and not just the technology itself.

“However, topics such as the state of development of the technology, standards, and metrics for performance, and the value of different business cases are still under debate. Similarly, the optimal combination of collaboration and competition is not yet clear when it comes to applying the technology in commercial settings,” according to McKinsey.

Having said this, some of the sectors that seem to stand out in benefiting from its use-cases in the near term are the chemical, pharmaceutical, finance, and automotive sectors. With quantum computing start-ups proliferating and big tech firms such as Amazon, Alibaba, Google, Microsoft, and IBM already investing heavily in commercial quantum-computing cloud services, the sector is only set to burgeon.

One aspect to keep in mind, however, is the fact that research into the sector may not necessarily translate into commercial results. “While quantum computing promises to help businesses solve problems that are beyond the reach and speed of conventional high-performance computers, use cases are largely experimental and hypothetical at this early stage. Indeed, experts are still debating the most foundational topics for the field.”

Consider, for example, a use case in pharmaceuticals. Whilst harnessing the power of enzymes may just lead to the alleviation of several major diseases, its exact molecular structure still remains too complex for classical computers to model. Sufficiently powerful quantum computers could, however, solve this in a matter of hours – predicting reactivity, structure and properties that could potentially revolutionize drug development. A faster R&D timeline could, in fact, move products to patients quicker and more efficiently and thus help save lives.

Those in leadership positions in major businesses keeping an eye on this should start to formulate quantum computing strategies, according to experts. Changes may come as soon as 2030, with several companies predicting a launch in usable quantum systems by then. A recent study conducted by McKinsey& Co. interviewing global leaders in the sector found the three major aspects to concentrate on will be funding, hardware, and software.

[Continue reading in Part II for some details on the study]

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