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When to Start Investing in Quantum Computing?


Apr 17, 2023 - 5 minute read

Quantum 1
Peter den Haan Quantum Computing Specialist

He has a PhD in quantum physics and 10 years of full-stack software development experience, over half of which with Objectivity.

See all Peter's posts

2988 HC Digital Transformation 476X381


Table of contents

  1. Quantum Value
  2. Quantum Horizon
  3. Quantum Timing

There is quite a bit of hype around quantum computing. As much as 81% of UK businesses expect quantum computing to disrupt their field by 2030. One the one hand, claims that the entire IT industry could be revolutionised are overblown. On the other, quantum does break through the inherent limitations of classical computers in the areas of optimisation, machine learning and AI, chemistry and simulation. So, when can you expect it to realise this potential, and what would be the right time to start investing in it?

Quantum Value

Quantum computing promises to tackle tasks that traditional computers struggle to perform within a viable amount of time or can’t perform at all. Unsurprisingly, vendors strive to prove ‘quantum supremacy’ — find use cases where quantum computers can outperform to their conventional counterparts. 

Google, for example, claimed supremacy on a somewhat artificial task in 2019, and more practically on machine learning in 2022. We have the opportunity to compare this with quantum-based projects we delivered to our clients. In our projects, we have indeed seen quantum optimisation outperform best-in-class conventional approaches (Gurobi) in some cases. 

Is the difference large and consistent enough to disrupt your business? The honest answer is: tomorrow, but not yet today. 

That doesn’t mean, however, that quantum investments should also wait until tomorrow. The business value of quantum computing extends beyond the raw performance advantage. Quantum value is found in: 

  • Quantum supremacy or advantage in a small but continuously increasing number of cases; 
  • Quantum horizon that widens as you explore the potential of quantum computing to disrupt and transform your specific industry and business; 
  • Quantum readiness, as engaging with quantum computing now, prepares your business to ride the coming wave ahead of your competitors; 
  • Quantum portfolio that’s relevant to the biggest companies capable of developing their own IP in this emerging field. 

In this article, we’ll focus on the quantum horizon as this most affects the decision on when to invest — and, in a competitive market, investing may not be optional. Optimisation is the most business-ready quantum usage, but it is by no means the only one. Although some vendors argue that any optimisation technology will help you get quantum-ready, we would suggest that it might not be enough. Instead, we encourage you to develop a sense for the specific strengths of quantum and quantum-inspired solutions; this will help you and your staff explore how quantum computing will come to impact the business.

Quantum Horizon

What is on the quantum horizon? To understand at what time your business should invest in quantum computing, it is important to know the landscape in the short to medium term. 

Giants like IBM, Google, Intel and Microsoft, as well as a host of start-ups, are investing heavily in quantum hardware and software. Both are still in rapid development. Nevertheless, it is clear which quantum algorithms are either already commercially viable or will become so in the short (3–5 years) to the medium term (5–15 years). 

Viable now or in the short term: ● 
Viable in the medium term: ○ 
Viable already, with more powerful applications in the medium term ●○ 

Every dot in this table represents a potential competitive advantage. New quantum and quantum-inspired algorithms can bring innovative solutions and approaches to anything from AI-assisted medical diagnostics, through the discovery of new materials or pharmaceuticals through highly accurate simulation, to production planning in a factory.  

For example, a 2022 stock planning pilot we delivered for a major beverage manufacturer was very successful in terms of the performance delivered using quantum computing at production scale. Moreover, in its wake, we were able to explore how the quantum model could be refined to better reflect the client’s specific business. Their existing traditional system is unable to support these refinements while maintaining acceptable performance. 

Most near-term applications, including this stock planning system, employ optimisers based on quantum or quantum-inspired annealing. These special-purpose processors are more mature and commercially viable than their quantum circuit-based peers. Although circuits will, within the next few years, see early commercial application in AI, simulation and optimisation. 

Quantum Timing

So what is the right time to invest in quantum computing? The answer is, of course, unique to your business, but to some extent it has to be “now”. Quantum computing has advanced sufficiently that every company should invest in exploring and evaluating the following questions: 

  • What type of quantum computing will impact your industry first? Referring to Table 1, the first impact will be in a wide range of optimisation applications and AI, followed by simulation. Are any of these involved in your core business? The answer is probably “yes”. For example,
  • Improving and optimising production processes in manufacturing; 
  • Supply chain, warehousing, pricing optimisation and recommendation systems in retail; 
  • Employee and resource scheduling, machine learning, diagnostics and simulation in healthcare; 
  • Resource scheduling, warehousing and supply chain management in logistics; 
  • Optimising production and distribution processes and simulation in energy. 
  • How mature is this technology, and when is it expected to be commercially viable by? Optimisation is already used in production environments and is offering an advantage in specific cases. Quantum-assisted machine learning and AI, as well as simulation, will start to enter commercial viability over the next few years. Quantum computers have already been successfully deployed in contexts as varied as assembly line robot pathing optimisation, refuse collection, healthcare employee scheduling, supermarket supply chain management, warehousing, and optimisation of power distribution. At this point, it’s beneficial to invest in exploring the advantages that quantum computing can offer to your business, for example, by conducting a pilot project.  
  • How much are you willing and able to invest in order to ride the wave ahead of your competitors? Or to think of it the other way around, especially in the areas where quantum computing will affect your core business proposition: can you afford not to?

In some cases, it is still quite early to run a quantum computing pilot. For example, if the first part of your industry to be impacted is quantum simulation to aid product development, deployment in a production environment is still a few years off. But even then, from a strategic point of view, it would be wise to gather trusted partners and encourage staff to at least keep up with developments in the quantum world. The wave is coming, and you will want your business to ride it.


2988 HC Digital Transformation 476X381
Peter den Haan Quantum Computing Specialist

He has a PhD in quantum physics and 10 years of full-stack software development experience, over half of which with Objectivity.

See all Peter's posts

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