In the 122 years since Max Planck first suggested the quantum hypothesis, scientists have drastically expanded our understanding of quantum mechanics and how the universe behaves at the smallest scales. As this understanding has grown, researchers have started to look for ways to put the strange properties of the quantum world to work solving problems for us, with quantum computing at the forefront.
Traditional computing relies on binary integers (or bits) made of transistors that flip back and forth between 0 and 1. By combining transistors in elaborate and complex ways, we have built the modern world around us. However, the computational power of traditional computing is inherently defined by its use of binary integers.
Quantum computing throws all of that out and reimagines the building blocks of computation, utilizing specially designed systems known as quantum bits, or qubits, that are not restricted to binary data. A qubit can have the value 0 or 1 or a superposition of those two states. This creates the promise of a vast leap forward in computing power, producing a wide range of potential future applications.
While the science behind quantum computing is sound, and some machines have found use in specific applications, the engineering challenges of building stable, scalable, fault-tolerant systems of qubits remain considerable.
Given that this exciting field is in an early stage with competing technologies and no clear standardization process, the Quantum Economic Development Consortium (QED-C®) compiled a study on the state of the quantum computing industry.
QED-C quantum computing industry study
As part of the American COMPETE Act, the Secretary of Commerce and the Federal Trade Commission are required to review eight emerging technologies, one of which is quantum computing. Government partners engaged QED-C to produce a report providing a snapshot of the current quantum computing landscape.
The report is divided into two phases, the first published in May 2022 and the second was released to QED-C members in June. Jonathan Felbinger, deputy director of QED-C, described the first phase, “The report is assessing the awareness and impact of quantum computing on diverse industries, the prevalence of consortia, and partnerships aimed at accelerating progress and the state of standards development to support commercial applications.”
QED-C primarily intends for the study to inform a government audience on the current state of quantum computing technology, the diverse range of potential applications that sectors are exploring and the early standardization efforts within the industry.
However, the report is also a valuable resource for QED-C members. It provides a detailed overview of the entire quantum computing ecosystem and an index of potential end-users and sectors interested in quantum computing. It also acts as a tool to identify funding activities in both the public and private sectors in the US as well as in some allied nations.
Understanding the quantum computing ecosystem
Although the quantum computing industry is in its infancy, revenues are expected to almost double in the next five years. The study goes into detail on:
- The different quantum computing models under active development, focusing on the leading candidates.
- The awareness of and potential use of quantum computing across 26 diverse sectors outside the immediate quantum ecosystem. These sectors include aerospace, architecture, automotive, defense & intelligence, electronics, energy, finance, logistics, pharmaceuticals, retail and others.
- Almost two dozen quantum-specific consortia that are active in quantum computing around the world, including in Canada, Japan, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and the greater European region.
- Public-private partnerships related to R&D in quantum information science that have been established by programs involved with the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.
- The early standardization efforts within the industry and a comparison to more mature quantum technologies such as quantum key distribution (QKD).
Many of the sectors discussed in the report are currently in the early stages of evaluating quantum computing solutions and are looking to build expertise before full-scale quantum computing systems become available.
The quantum computing industry still needs sustained investment to ensure that the early systems currently available through the cloud receive support and that research teams can realize new scalable quantum hardware.
Phase two of QED-C’s quantum computing industry study
The second phase of the report, available to QED-C members, provides 45 recommendations for the government to help advance the goals articulated in the American COMPETE Act and helps ensure the US remains at the forefront of quantum computers’ development and future adoption.