The Rise of Quantum Ecosystems in 2024 and Beyond

By Dr. Philip Krantz, Quantum Engineering Solutions team at Keysight Technologies.

  • Thursday, 14th December 2023 Posted 5 months ago in by Phil Alsop

Quantum technology allows us to harness the fundamental laws of quantum mechanics to solve problems that are either intractable or even impossible using today’s technology. Areas where quantum technology can offer profound impact include complex simulations and computations, secure communication, and more powerful imaging and sensor techniques. Governments and industries have recognised the necessity to invest in quantum research and early adoption of quantum-technological applications to ensure competitiveness and to be prepared for any disruptive advancements within the scope of their interests.

As a response to the steady scientific progress within the quantum community during the past decades, many branches of quantum technologies have moved out of university labs into start-up ventures, high-tech companies, as well as military. Consequently, the community has broadened from mainly being explored by quantum physicists to requiring a wide blend of expertise and backgrounds, ranging from various engineering disciplines to including business professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs.

As part of this transition, academic and industrial quantum hubs, quantum incubators, as well as local and national quantum ecosystems have risen during the past years – most aiming to build up and foster a workforce composition required for long-term success. To this end, there has been an increased need to attract talent, both from outside these ecosystems as well as training of local students and engineers to enable sustainable technological growth.

In this article, we will discuss a few ongoing trends we are seeing when it comes to building up quantum ecosystems.

National quantum technology initiatives

Building up world-leading expertise in quantum technologies takes a long time, requires substantial investments, and is often facilitated through an already existing academic quantum research community. Quantum ecosystems, i.e., collaborative environments of academic and industrial quantum research teams, are often created to support mutual interests in terms of both attracting the workforce, as well as synergistically benefiting from other members' strengths and competencies. These local quantum ecosystems expand both organically via education and inorganically through attracting workforce and industries from other places to get established within the ecosystem. Therefore, access to state-of-the-art technology, beneficial start-up culture, and world-leading research teams are all examples of important factors needed for ecosystems to become successful and self-sustaining.

Oftentimes, however, ecosystems experience “knowledge gaps” prohibiting them from making fast progress on certain technologies. One example is when the capability to produce high-quality quantum processor units (QPUs) is missing. For instance, due to the lack of an advanced and dedicated cleanroom facility. One common trend that we often see is that such ecosystems procure a commercial quantum processor (sometimes also including all required cryogenics and quantum control systems) containing the qubit modality (or modalities) that

the country seeks to pursue. This way, local experience in quantum control and algorithms can be gained in parallel with the development of local cleanroom fabrication processes and the exploration of optimal qubit designs. During the past years, several commercial alternatives for QPUs as well as parametric amplifiers have entered the market.

Quantum-as-a-service (QaaS) – cloud, device testing, and fabrication services

As mentioned, getting started in quantum technology requires time, money, and manpower. This has yielded an increased market need for quantum service providers to offer quantum-as-a-service (QaaS), including for instance remote cloud access to quantum processors, test beds for device characterisation, as well as foundries that offer fabrication services to clients. This way, quantum research teams have the option to strategically outsource parts of their operation to a third-party QaaS provider, which can have an important impact for startups entering the quantum ecosystem with limited time and resources. While this is currently happening on a very limited scale, interest in QaaS will increase in 2024 and beyond. In addition, we foresee that QaaS providers may in the long run enter a role to standardise device operation, characterisation, and fabrication which allows for future benchmarking of both quantum processors as well as qubit-adjacent technologies.

Quantum in the classroom

Another ongoing trend we are seeing is an increased need for a qualified and diverse workforce as countries ramp up their national quantum initiatives. To address this bottleneck, we foresee that the number of dedicated higher education programs focusing on quantum technologies will continue to increase in 2024 and beyond. Oftentimes, these programs are constructed in close collaboration with industrial partners, with access to state-of-the-art quantum control and readout technologies, so that students acquire relevant and up-to-date skills, preparing them for future quantum careers. There are also numerous industrial internships and mentorship programs that can help guide students in their future career choices.

In addition to pure technical programs, there will also be an increased focus on quantum technology among business schools and entrepreneurship programs. This comes from an increased drive for business professionals to obtain basic training in quantum technology, helping them to be competitive in the highly dynamic quantum community.

Gender equality in quantum

Another very positive and uprising trend is the many ongoing efforts on gender equality, aiming at increasing the ratio of women working in quantum technologies. Having access to a diversified and gender-balanced workforce is important for any industry and quantum technologies are certainly no exception.

With the worldwide advancement in quantum technology research and development, the community is expanding beyond the academic realm and into startups, high-tech companies, and the military. This will give rise to quantum hubs, incubators, and local and national ecosystems all trying to build a workforce able to seize the quantum opportunity. Solving the talent gap is critical to realising the potential of quantum in the coming years and decades.