Quantum technology moves into real world applications

3 min read

New research from the Capgemini Research Institute has found that almost a quarter (23%) of organisations are working (or planning to work) on leveraging quantum technologies, with expectations of at least one major commercial application within the next 3–5 years.

In addition, the research found that 20% of organisations were looking to increase investments in the technology in the next year.

According to the research ‘Quantum technologies: How to prepare your organisation for a quantum advantage now’, China (43%) and the Netherlands (42%) have the largest share of companies working on or planning to work on quantum technologies. Both are well ahead of Germany and the UK (each on 26%) and compares to 23% on average globally.

While the majority of organisations working on quantum started more than 2 years ago, 28% of them said that they had done so in the last two years. Overall, quantum technologies are beginning to move out of research environments and into real-world applications. Capgemini found that among the organisations working on quantum, nearly 20% have reached implementation stage (experiments or proofs of concepts), while a further 23% have identified relevant use cases and are preparing for implementation.

These companies said that they intended to leverage the tech in a number of ways, from improving sustainability in operations, and discovery of new materials for battery manufacture, to securing information, through to medical sensors and mitigating harmful industrial gases. Financial services organisations are using quantum technologies for more accurate pricing of risky assets, optimising portfolios for better returns, and for detecting frauds. In addition, Life Sciences companies are attempting to shorten the drug-development cycle using quantum computing.

The Capgemini Research Institute conducted in-depth discussions with over 30 industry experts globally to better understand how the top implementers are already using quantum technologies. Elham Kashefi, Professor of Quantum Computing at the School of Informatics, University of Edinburgh and Director of Research at Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Sorbonne University and co-founder of VeriQloud, said: “It can take another decade to build a fault-tolerant, universal quantum computer. However, we can still get real impactful applications on quantum devices in the near future provided we optimise and adapt quantum algorithms for the emerging noisy hardware equipped with tailor made verification processes.”

The report found that quantum technologies have reached different levels of maturity in terms of expected applications.

Quantum computing has the highest potential of all quantum domains but was found to be the least mature.  The pace of development has accelerated, driven by investor interest, expanding use cases and technology breakthroughs. On average, a majority of organisations working on quantum believe that the first commercial quantum computing applications are five years away.

Quantum communications could address the new requirements of information security, in particular to secure information exchange with external parties, protect critical infrastructure (IoT and cloud-enabled technologies) within the organisation or secure cloud data centres. Quantum cryptographic solutions are already being implemented. However, 58% of organisations working on quantum are waiting for standards to emerge before prioritising quantum-safe security.

Quantum sensors are more niche but also more mature. As they become smaller, more energy-efficient and cheaper, sensors could play a transformative role across industries. Quantum sensors can accelerate precision of measurement, notably in the healthcare/diagnostics, defence, automotive, civil engineering, construction, oil/gas, space, and telecom sectors.

The research found that seven in ten organisations working on quantum agreed that due to long product development cycles in their businesses, they need to invest time now in building a base (the right skills, identifying problems/use cases, conducting lab experiments, or striking partnerships) and integrating quantum technologies into their processes. More than half (58%) of the organisations working on quantum stated that they had secured C-level support for quantum initiatives in the last year.

According to Pascal Brier (left), Chief Innovation Officer at Capgemini and member of the Group Executive Committee, “Recent breakthroughs in quantum technologies seek to herald a new era for computing, sensors and cybersecurity within the next 5 years. Our research confirms that more and more organisations are getting educated about the technology and experimenting with real-life quantum technology applications. In the past two years, we’ve seen leaders emerge in the financial industry and a lot of traction in automotive, in particular. Getting ready today is critical to be able to capitalize on these new generation technologies when commercial applications become mainstream. It is why our team of quantum technology experts across the globe is focused on unlocking this potential for clients.”

Even as large-scale commercial applications are a few years away, the report advises that organisations can start preparing now for the quantum advantage – the ability to drive significantly higher performance than what is possible with the current state of technology.

Once the use case is established, organisations can start experimentation with a small team of experts. Further, translating the most potent use cases to small-scale quantum experiments, striking long-term partnerships with technology providers, and developing a long-term strategy to scale up quantum talent will be crucial.