Quantum Outlook 2019

2018 has seen rising awareness of the future potential of quantum technology. 2019 is set to see quantum computing in particular at the peak of its hype cycle. Fact Based Insight believes that investors should take a wide view of the sector to find value in the short, medium and long term.

The road to fault tolerant quantum computing remains a long one

Progress towards a quantum computer has seemed rapid. IBM Q first offered cloud access to a 5 qubit processor in 2016 and a 16 qubit processor in 2017. At the end of 2017 IBM announced a 50 qubit prototype, IBM Q 50. 2018 opened with a flurry of competing announcements. Intel rushed forward the announcement of Tangle Lake (49 qubits, Jan). Alibaba entered the race (11 qubits, Feb). Google restored its lead with Bristlecone (72 qubits, Mar). Rigetti has announced that it is building the Aspen series of quantum processors, including a 128 qubit device planned for 2019. All of these devices use superconducting qubit technology.

This buzz has tempted some to use a Quantum Moore’s Law to extrapolate forward how quickly qubit count will now grow. Such optimism must unfortunately be tempered. None of this new wave of devices have actually publically reported benchmark or even test results. The delay in any claim of quantum supremacy is evidence of the challenge of maintaining qubit fidelity (in particular for 2-qubit gate fidelity) as devices scale up. Fact Based Insight sees the true state-of-the-art superconducting qubit device for 2018 as the IBM Q 20 Tokyo device.

IonQ trapped ion processor image

IonQ processor Credit: IonQ

This has given the trapped ion qubit community space to catch-up lost ground. Key progress was reported by several groups through 2018, with demonstration of greatly improved gate speeds (laser driven gates) and noise robustness (microwave driven gates) [34]. Following IonQ’s successful $20m funding round in 2017 it was starting to look like it would miss its promise to announce a significant device in 2018.  However, on December 11, CEO Chris Monroe showed that the best had been saved to last, and dramatically unveiled two new trapped ion quantum computers [40]. The headline size is 160 qubits (though single qubit gates can only be performed on 79 qubits, and 2-qubit gates on 11 qubits). IonQ claim superior benchmark comparisons versus a range of current IBM and Rigetti devices. Average 2-qubit gate fidelity is reported as ‘greater than 98%’. While impressive this does again demonstrate the challenge of maintaining fidelities while scaling-up from smaller devices.

Fact Based Insight applauds the work of all these talented teams.  However it is only realistic to acknowledge that progress is indeed running behind the timelines that are sometimes hyped. This helps us understand the true state of a field that is in transition from a scientific to an engineering and commercial basis.

To watch in 2019

NASA vs Bristlecone – Google has announced a partnership with NASA to evaluate the performance of Bristlecone against its fastest supercomputers. Will this finally lead to a quantum supremacy claim early in 2019? We may also see results from IBM, Intel and Rigetti. Watch out for quantum computing to reach the peak of Gartner’s Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies.

Trapped ion renaissance – Full details are awaited on IonQ’s new devices. Expect other trapped ion based startups. Watch out for engineered ion trap control modules and entanglement swapping between modules from NQIT. If microwave driven gate fidelities can demonstrate that they are indeed closing the gap with laser driven gate performance, their other advantages will make a powerful case for their future role.

Silicon spin qubits – The compatibility of these devices with CMOS compatible nanofabrication techniques offers a great promise of scalability [32]. Watch out for progress on their operation at higher temperatures in the 1-4K range (significantly easier than the mK temperature some other technologies require), though achieving adequate 2-qubit gate fidelities remains a key challenge. Will we see announcements from SQC or Intel/QuTech?

Photonic qubits – Recent component advances should allow a significant increase in the number of photons that can be processed on-chip. Xanadu secured seed funding of C$9m in 2018. PsiQuantum remains officially in stealth mode, though academic publications and presentations by its leading officers have demonstrated efficient 2-qubit gates using the LOQO scheme. Fidelities may seem low compared to other technologies (93.2±4.5%), but this should be seen in the context of the significant advantages photonics offers in almost all other areas. Watch out for future roadmaps from Xanadu and PsiQuantum.

Topological qubits – In 2018 Microsoft-backed scientists at QuTech demonstrated they had created Majorana quasiparticles. Watch out for demonstrations that these novel nanowire phenomena can be systematically prepared and measured as qubits.

Novel technologies – New startups are bringing innovative variations of qubit technology out of the lab. Watch out for announcements from OQC and Quantum Motion Technoloiges.

Applications in the noisy intermediate scale quantum era?

A year ago Caltech professor John Preskill coined the term NISQ to define the era we are about to enter. Commercial marketeers may object that this isn’t a very appealing term. In truth it isn’t meant to be. It reflects the unease that many academics feel about the unexpectedly rapid industrialisation of the field. Many don’t want to overpromise on the immediate benefits for end users.

A natural question for the NISQ era is what useful commercial applications can be addressed with such intermediate devices? Many of the most often discussed quantum applications require the resources of large scale fault tolerant devices. Expect to see hybrid and adapted versions of leading gate model prototypes joining the quest to find early applications. However there are also other approaches to seeking value in this era.

D-Wave 2000Q

D-Wave 2000Q Credit: D-Wave

D-Wave Systems has undoubtedly had a great 2018. The success of its D-Wave 2000Q computer based on quantum annealing technology let it open the year by locking in $20m of additional funding. D-Wave has epitomised the approach of seeking active client engagement rather than theoretical or technology goals. Notable successes include securing a $7.5m Canadian government clean tech grant, favourable results from the QCAPS evaluation project involving BT Group and multiple traffic flow optimisation projects – Denso report that they have improved the routing of their automated factory vehicles by 15%.

In contrast to the mathematical algorithms of gate model quantum computing, D-Wave’s quantum annealing approach provides solutions to optimisation problems. However, with ingenuity, a broad class of applications can be mapped on to problems of this type (D-Wave customers have developed 100 exploratory applications, from materials simulation and quantum chemistry to network optimisation and machine learning). This approach also relates to a wide class of other potential devices – analogue quantum simulators. These use a controlled quantum system to model another system or problem. Approaches of this type may have particular relevance in the NISQ era and have received a significant boost in 2018 via their inclusions as a separate pillar in the EU Quantum Flagship.

Integrated phontonics chip

Integrated photonics chip Credit: N. Matsuda at NTT

If IBM’s calculation of beryllium hydride (BeH2) ground state energy was a quantum highlight of 2017, for Fact Based Insight one of the highlights of 2018 was the simulation of vibrational dynamics in various four-atom molecules (including H2CS, SO3, HNCO, HFHF, N4 and P4) by a team led by the Univ. of Bristol using an integrated photonics chip and machine learning approaches [25]. Such results point to the future role that quantum simulation can play in chemistry, with profound implications for the Pharmaceutical and other sectors.

Speaking recently at Q2B 2018 Preskill himself remained cautious about the short term “NISQ will not change the world by itself. Realistically the goal for near-term quantum platforms should be to pave the way for bigger payoffs using future devices”.

To watch in 2019

D-Wave Pegasus – This new architecture is expected to offer 5000+ qubits, with 15 qubit connectivity and lower intrinsic noise. Watch out for this driving a wave of new user case studies.

Certifiable Randomness – Scott Aaronson has highlighted the generation of certifiable ‘public’ random numbers as a possible early application of NISQ devices. Watch out for the application of this technique, from cryptosystems to election auditing, lotteries and ‘proof of stake’ cryptocurrencies.

Simulated integer factorisation – Jose Rosales and Vicente Martin are designing a Penning trap based quantum simulator that promises to speed-up the security sensitive problem of factoring large integers [33]. Related to the Berry-Keating refinement of the Hilbert–Pólya conjecture, if successful it would be an experimental ‘test’ of the famous Riemann hypothesis (though the Clay Mathematics Institute is unlikely to agree it qualifies as a Millennium Prize proof!). This work is also inspiring conventional computing work at UPM to prepare countermeasures against the threat that the ‘spectrum’ of factoring for RSA keys is discovered. Watch out for the potential of this or other quantum simulator applications to disrupt the assumed timescales of quantum development.

Machine learning and control engineering – A key challenge to get the most out of NISQ devices is optimisation of their control and readout signals. The delicate nature of these systems and the specialist nature of the gate operations required makes this a much more important factor than in mature conventional computing. Q-CTRL is a startup at the cutting edge of this field. Their existing Black Opal product characterises and controls noise using advanced machine learning techniques. In 2019 Boulder Opal will allow customers to embed customised control solutions directly into their products. Watch out for how the value of such specialist businesses develops in the quantum ecosystem.

Battle royal in quantum software

Experience in the Digital Revolution from desktop computers to mobile phones has taught us the central role of software and the great commercial value to be realised in owning or controlling the software platform underpinning the ecosystem. This is not lost on the big players in the quantum sector and a battle royal is developing to define this key future quantum software playing field.

IBM Q Experience - Quantum Composer. Credit: IBM Q

IBM Q Experience – Quantum Composer Credit: IBM Q

IBM has led the way. From March 2017, the IBM Q Experience has offered cloud access to its early quantum processors via the QISKit platform and OpenQASM intermediate level programming language. It also features the Quantum Composer and easy-to-use graphical user interface for introductory applications.  Its user base now stands 100,000+ cloud users across 7 continents, 7+ million experiments run, 130+ external papers, 1500+ colleges and universities, 300 schools, 300 private institutions [40].

Rigetti also offers cloud access to its quantum processors via the Forrest development environment, featuring the Quil instruction set and pyQuil library to facilitate hybrid conventional/quantum programming in Python.

Microsoft has launched the .Net friendly Quantum Development Kit platform and Q#, a high level programme language for quantum algorithms. Though execution is currently based on software simulation, Microsoft has been active in building its collaboration with quantum software startups, including access to resources on the Azure cloud.

Google has focussed on facilitating open source application oriented libraries, such as OpenFermion (for simulating quantum chemistry). More recently it has launched Cirq, a library optimised for working with NISQ devices. The involvement of software error mitigation specialist, Quantum Benchmark, hints at the potential advantages of this approach.

The Atos Quantum Learning Machine is an on-premise environment for quantum software developers. This will benefit from the high profile Atos has built within the EU quantum programme. Project Q is an open-source quantum software framework started at ETH Zurich that supports programming Python with access to execution on the IBM Q cloud.

D-Wave have also now launched Leap, their cloud service, with access via the Ocean software development kit. However D-Wave’s approach is not just a different technology, but also a different approach to developing client value. At this point other platforms are really focussed on letting the community learn to programme quantum computers. D-Wave has simply dived into working with clients directly on their problems.  As Rolf Dekleer, of GrowthWorks Venture Capital and a long term investor in D-Wave, explains “With 100+ early applications developed with customers like DENSO, Volkswagen, Lockheed Martin, Los Alamos National Lab, Oak Ridge National Lab and others, there are a significant number of really smart people who are actually using the D-Wave quantum systems today”.

To watch in 2019

Bristlecone cloud – Google has announced its intention of launching a cloud service once its 72 qubit device is operational. Watch for whether the availability of Cirq can accelerate the efforts of researchers working on its platform.

Educational battle – Being the platform of choice for graduates taking their first steps in quantum programming will be an important long term advantage. IBM Q currently has a lead here. Watch out for challenges to this dominant position.

Rigetti $1m Prize – Rigetti are offering a $1m prize for the first team that manages to show quantum advantage on its hybrid quantum cloud platform. Regardless of when their new 128 qubit Aspen processor is delivered, watch out for this stimulating interest in their software platform.

Application specialists – Some quantum software startups are seeking to establish a name for themselves in specific application areas: ProteinQure in drug discovery, Riverlane in drug and materials discovery, QxBranch in data analytics, while others such as 1QBit adopt a more consultancy approach across a variety of sectors. QC Ware are seeking to build a reputation for application software based on the strength of their quantum algorithms team. Watch out as these companies seek to build relationships and project credentials with both quantum hardware vendors and clients in major target industries.

Airbus Quantum Computing Challenge – Airbus has defined five key ‘flight physics’ problems where it is offering resources to academics to help them find improved solutions that leverage the capabilities of quantum computing. Watch out for this becoming a model that other major companies may follow. Will a major Pharma company follow suit?

Man vs compiler – Modern software uses high level languages and good optimising compilers for performance applications. However in the early days, hand-optimisation of assembly level code was often required for cutting edge results. Will quantum software follow the same path or not? Most current early platforms offer some form of quantum assembly language, while Microsoft is already offering a high level language. Watch out for the extent to which Q# gets used for NISQ applications.

Multiple paths to quantum safe cryptography

2018 has been a watershed year for quantum safe cryptography. Large scale quantum computers able to break current public key cryptography may still be 10+ years away.  However long-term sensitive data intercepted and stored today is already vulnerable to future decrypt in this way. Importantly 2018 has been the year when this has been widely pointed out and communicated. Future company boards will not be able to argue that they have been prudent and diligent if they lose data in this way at a future date. Given the strictures of modern regulation, such as the GDPR, this is a very significant business risk.

Broadly two approaches are being developed to meet the challenge: the new maths-based protocols of post-quantum cryptography and the physics-based approaches of quantum cryptography, especially QKD.

Development of new maths-based cryptographic protocols thought to be resistant to quantum attack has been underway since 2006.  In April 2018 this process significantly accelerated as NIST held its first PQC Standardisation Conference in Fort Lauderdale. Out of 82 original submissions, 64 algorithms remain in the running [27]. This was a strong start to what will be a multi-year evaluation process. The various protocols have different strengths and weaknesses. Trade-offs and vulnerabilities need to be analysed. Significantly larger key sizes mean that these may not be simple ‘drop-in’ replacements for existing algorithms. Draft standards are not due to be published until 2022-2024.

SK Telecom & IDQ

IDQ and SK Telecom sign strategic partnership

Quantum cryptography, in particular QKD, offers another potential response to future cybersecurity threats. The Chinese demonstration of QKD from its Micius satellite in 2017 has truly proven to be a ‘Sputnik’ moment, significantly reinvigorating western interest in QKD as a complement to maths-based cryptography. 2018 saw the consolidation of these efforts, with major new QKD demonstrations in Spain and the UK. In Madrid, Telefónica, Huawei and UPM conducted a field trial over a conventional metropolitan optical network. In Cambridge, Toshiba and the UKNQT Quantum Communications Hub launched the Cambridge QKD network, the first link in the planned UK Quantum Network, a testbed for a whole suite of quantum crypto technology. In South Korea, SK Telecom (having now bought long-term pioneer IDQ) are planning some degree of QKD integration in their emerging 5G network. Space missions to demonstrate QKD or its enabling components have also received a great deal of attention. Fact Based Insight is now aware of nine missions at various stages of planning, design and funding [30,36].

Businesses need to review the time horizons of their own data sensitivity now. As Mark Pecen, of ISARA and Chair of the ETSI Working Group for QSC, explains “a small company of 20 people might be able to update their public key infrastructure in a week or two.  In contrast, a large company or government environment with thousands or millions of network nodes may easily require 10 years or more to fully upgrade.  Furthermore, long-lived products such as smart automobiles or transport trucks will need to be equipped for autonomous software updating – the user of such vehicles will want to know that their software update was made by the actual factory, not some attacker, a method that requires quantum-safe authentication”.

Leaders in the field of quantum-safe security services are adopting a variety of strategies. ISARA emphasise the need for ‘agile’ solutions that are able to support multiple evolving standards. Partners include Digicert, Gemalto and Blackberry. Their work with Volkswagen illustrates quantum-safe certificates as a route to protect smart vehicles and IoT devices in the long term. Poor quality random numbers are also a security vulnerability in many current crypto systems. QuintessenceLabs highlights the role that their rack-based QRNG and flexible key & policy management servers can play in an intermediate and long-term quantum safe strategy, while maturing fiber optic and free-space QKD.  IDQ offers QRNG and point-to-point QKD systems on a commercial basis. BT have QKD ‘proof of concept’ trials underway with an undisclosed number of major customers (Fact Based Insight’s assumption is that these are from the Financial Services community). Amazon have turned to the ETSI QSC Working Group to help set standards for the sub-system required for quantum-safe key exchanges in their network. QuantumCTek are seeking to commercialise their experience and equipment from China’s quantum network. While many Chinese companies and government agencies are involved in trials on China’s quantum network, it is worth noting that the major bank, ICBC, is beyond trials and is actually using the network. This is probably the first real commercial usage of a quantum network anywhere in the world [38,39].

To watch in 2019

NIST Round 2 – The announcement of which PQC candidates are proceeding to round 2 is expected in January. This will be hotly watched not just by direct participants, but also the emerging quantum-safe security services sector and early adopters to see what themes NIST finds most compelling, helping them to focus intermediate and transitionary efforts.

NIST 2nd PQC Standardisation Conference – To be held in Santa Barbara in August co-located with Crypto 2019. This will give observers an opportunity to understand the implementation resources required and the level of the security promise offered by the remaining contenders. Watch out for clear leaders emerging.

The UK Quantum Network – Launch of the link between Cambridge and BT’s Adastral Park location is expected in February, followed by the formal opening of the Bristol metropolitan section and finally demonstration of the long distance Cambridge to Bristol link. When completed this will be the largest testbed for quantum cryptography outside of China. Tim Spiller, Director of the UK Quantum Communications Hub says “with these links in place, we plan demonstrations of applications based on high rate data transmission encrypted with quantum keys together with other novel quantum key applications”. Will this help industry partners such as BT, Toshiba, IDQ and KETS bring their service and hardware offerings to a wider commercial market?

EU QKD Testbed – A LEIT project is expected to be awarded to build a European QKD Testbed. This complements the EU Quantum Flagship projects recently launched. Watch out for indications of how Brexit may lead to inefficiency and overlap between the UKNQT and EU programmes.

US Startups – Quantum Xchange is targeting big banks with an initial Wall Street to New Jersey QKD link. Qubitekk is targeting large utility companies to fund a power grid security field trial. Watch out for end user interest reenergising the US tradition in QKD.

CubeSats – The launch of SpooQy-1 will demonstrate whether CQT’s SPEQS source can be a practical source of entangled photon pairs from space. Watch out for how the network of collaborations and funding relationships around QKD-oriented cubesats shakes out.

Standards – Early quantum safe adopters will want systems that meet recognised standards. Watch out for the continuing work of ETSI, and others such as ISO and ITU-T.

KETS quantum encryption chip

KETS quantum encryption chip Credit: KETS

Maths vs Physics – Conventional wisdom holds that PQC will be the mainstream solution for mass use, with only businesses in sensitive sectors choosing to add QKD as a complementary layer of security. Others disagree and see a new wave of low cost quantum devices and the inevitable march of the Quantum Internet as changing the ground rules. Chris Erven, KETS CEO says “Our aim is to become the digital security operating system of the 21st century”. Watch out for protagonists fighting over how even the term quantum safe security is defined.

New quantum imaging, sensing and timing products are already reaching market

Fact Based Insight believes the biggest single mistake many have made in 2018 is to neglect the wider aspects quantum technology sector. The same enabling technologies that drive quantum computing and quantum communications also open up opportunities for other types of devices. In particular micro/nanofabrication, photonics and cutting edge techniques in computational science are allowing the creation of a wide new range of significantly enhanced imaging, sensing and timing technologies. These show not just great commercial potential in their own right, but crucially they are coming to market somewhat ahead of other areas of the quantum technology sector. Because of the underlying technology connections, how this sub-sector plays out is crucial to understanding how commercial growth can become self-sustaining in the wider ecosystem.

Many groups around the world are developing devices of this type:

  • Imaging with single photons – ultra sensitive tracking and 3D video in challenging environments (QuantiC, MIT Media Lab, AQUA).
  • Imaging with quantum dots – fluorescent label based imaging; new nanotechnology advances are targeting reduced toxicity and cost; carbon dots are one promising area.
  • Sensing with SQUIDs – improved SQUID technology such as the award winning HyQUID by York Instruments is enhancing existing applications.
  • Sensing with atomic vapour cells – existing magnetic sensing devices are benefiting from miniaturisation and computationally enhanced readout (UKNQT); research is underway to extend such devices for use in inertial sensing and timing (EU Flagship).
  • Sensing with trapped atoms and ions – devices for applications in gravity, inertial, magnetic sensing and timing are being built (UKNQT Sensors Hub).
  • Sensing with NV diamonds – magnetic sensing both with diamond tipped probes and via diamond nanoparticles (QuTech , NQIT, Harvard, MIT QEG).
  • Beating shot noise – imaging and sensor readout below the apparent shot noise limit by using specially prepared light beams (OuantiC, ETH Zurich).
  • Quantum radar – Using quantum entanglement to radically improve signal to noise ratios and defeat conventional jamming (CETC China, IQC Waterloo, EU Flagship).
UK National Quantum Technology Showcase 2018

UKNQT Showcase 2018 Image credit: Fact Based Insight

The best demonstration of the benefits a co-ordinated approach can bring has been the role these areas have played in the success of the UKNQT programme. The first UK National Quantum Technology Showcase in 2015 had 11 stands and just 300 attendees. The 2018 Showcase had 900 attendees. The 84 exhibits did include strong contributions from quantum computing and quantum communications, but a very significant part of the vibrancy came from imaging, sensing and timing devices, and the supporting ecosystem of component suppliers that have offerings close to or at market.

QuantIC and the Sensors and Metrology Hub have spearheaded the effort in imaging, sensors and timing, but collaboration across the wider UKNQT programme has remained strong. The same labs that are developing Trapped Ion qubits for quantum computing are also developing this technology for sensing. Photonic component suppliers working with one team can hope to expand their market with parallel opportunities. The programme has been already proven a seedbed for startups and a gateway into the quantum sector for both  midsized and large business.

To watch in 2019

Hype cycle – the inclusion of these technologies in the EU Flagship and the US NQI will significantly raise their profile. With USAF Major Generals like William T. Cooley talking about the benefits of such devices at conferences, popular coverage is set to grow. Watch out for an accelerated hype cycle specifically for these devices.

Prototype to product – A wave of academic spinoffs will have key field trials in 2019. Watch out for results from companies and projects such as QLM, FluoretiQ, Wee-g and various QuantIC cameras for pilot assist, hidden target detection and underwater 3D imaging.

UK Galileo Alternative – One consequence of Brexit is set to be UK withdrawal from Galileo, the EU’s GNSS project. The UK government has initiated a study to design a national alternative to the EU system. A like-for-like alternative to Galileo or GPS need not use any new quantum technology. However there are many potential touch points with the UK’s quantum programme: compact atomic clocks, nanosatellite constellations, improved hold-over resilience when a GNSS signal is denied (indeed the ultimate promise of quantum inertial sensing is that expensive GNSS systems are no longer required). Watch out for signs that a UK alternative to Galileo could incorporate innovative components.

CETC quantum radar

Quantum radar exhibit at Zhuhai Airshow

Quantum radar – The scientific concept behind quantum radar is clear, however the consensus in the west is that the prototype device announced by China’s CETC is still probably a long way from reaching the levels of performance required to threaten stealth aircraft technology. That notwithstanding, watch out for the growing geopolitical influence of such systems (even of currently unproven or limited capability).

The geopolitical quantum landscape is hotting up

2018 was a year of big announcements for national quantum programmes around the world.

In Europe, the EU launched the initial 20 projects of the ramp-up phase of its 10-year €1b Quantum Flagship ($57m/yr from central funds). The German government announced plans for €650m funding of quantum technology between 2018-22 ($148m/yr). Sweden launched WACQT with €97m funding for 2018-28  ($11m/yr). These join strong existing programmes in the Netherlands, where QuTech has €135m funding for 2016-2026 ($15m/yr) and the UK where UKNQT phase 1 has enjoyed £270m, later augmented to £385m between 2014-2019 ($100m/yr). The UK government has also now committed an initial phase 2 budget of £315m for 2019-2024 ($82m/yr).

In China, the plan for a National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences in Hefei has been expanded with announcements for sister facilities in Shanghai and Beijing. QKD usage on the existing Beijing-Jian-Hefei-Shanghai link has grown steadily, and further expansion of the national quantum secure backbone has been approved including long distance inland links to Wuhan and Guangzhou [39]. The planned growth of this network is directly compared by its proponents to that of ARPANET in the US in the 1970s and then NSFNET in the 1980’s and 1990’s, a process that was the foundation of the modern Internet. In truth it’s difficult to get transparent estimates of how much funding these initiatives are receiving, with reported figures varying from province backing of RMB 1b ($140m) to long term state support of RMB 100b ($14b). The oft quoted $10b for the Hefei centre is believed to refer to the requested rather than the committed funding. Mark Foley, a consultant at ATIP in Tokyo said “In Asia, for the past 10 years the focus has been on quantum communications, however 2018 has seen more quantum computing initiatives announced. The roll-out of such initiatives in China, Japan, Singapore and Korea will gain momentum in 2019. Expect China to continue rapid developments. Whatever the investment number, it is likely to be in the order of several billion US$ over the next 5 years including facility construction and infrastructure”.

In the US, the growing progress of national programmes elsewhere in the world has led many to conclude that American leadership in information technology and ultimately in key defence and security technologies is threatened. The response has been the creation of a US national programme to co-ordinate and augment the funds the US is spending on quantum research and development. The National Quantum Initiative Act sets up a 10 year National Quantum Initiative (NQI) to address the full range of quantum technologies across quantum information theory, quantum physics, quantum computational science, applied mathematics & algorithm development, quantum networking, quantum sensing and detection and materials science & engineering. It will promote basic research, education and the development of supporting infrastructure. Between 2-5 National Quantum Information Science Research Centers will be set up, each with an annual budget of up to $25m. Similarly 2-5 Multidisciplinary Centers for Quantum Research and Education will be created, each with an annual budget of up to $10m. Additionally, over the next five years NIST will spend $80m supporting the quantum initiative. For 2019-23, the envisaged spend is therefore up to $1.2b ($255m/yr). NQIA received bipartisan support in the House and the Senate, and has now been signed into law by the President.

Pan Jianwei, the ‘father’ of the Chinese quantum programme said “The reason why China is a leader in the field of international quantum communication is that we chose the difficult road starting from basic research and mastered the core technology ten years ago.” Jürgen Mlynek, chair of the EU Quantum Flagship high-level-steering committee emphasises “The Quantum Flagship’s focus is not on basic science, it’s on technologies. The idea is to team up between academia and the private sector. The goal is to contribute to wealth and job creation in Europe”. Lamar Smith, Republican chair of the US House Science, Space and Technology committee said “With competition from abroad, America must increase and accelerate efforts to secure leadership in the quantum sector for our national security and economic prosperity. The National Quantum Initiative Act will ensure the United States remains the global leader in science and technology”.

To watch in 2019

EU quantum moonshot – The EU is finalising the successor to its current Horizon 2020 research programme. ‘Building the first universal quantum computer in Europe’ has made it onto a short list of five ‘missions’ proposed by the Commission. Such missions are intended to be a highlight of the programme helping to drive focus and galvanise public support. Each selected mission could expect to receive an additional €1-2b in funding between 2021-27. Watch out for a decision from the EU Council.

US National Quantum Initiative – The NQI will be overseen by a co-ordinating office and advisory committee. Watch out for the initial advisory committee report in June, and the 5-year strategic plan before the end of the year.

UK National Quantum Computing Centre – A headline feature of the UKNQT phase 2 will be the creation of a UK national quantum computing centre. Where this will be located will be a hotly contested decision. A project manager has been appointed. Watch out for news on the decision and development roadmap, as well as other details of UKNQT phase 2.

Inter-regional links – Quantum think tank Barcelonaqbit drives connections between the strong quantum community in Spain and others around the world. Watch out for the Q1 launch of the Observatory of Quantum Technologies in Spain and Latin America. This will be an interesting bridge between quantum work in the EU and LATAM. Australia, Singapore, Canada and Japan each have their own strong quantum sectors. How will their patterns of collaboration be shaped between the major regional programmes?

Growing geopolitical rivalry – Awareness of the future economic and defence implications of quantum technology is growing. The US Bureau of Industry and Security has just undertaken a consultation on adding quantum information and sensing technology to the commercial control list of ‘dual use’ items. Watch out for constraints emerging on future international quantum collaboration. Major companies may be exposed to these tensions. For example, security concerns have grown in the west around Huawei and its relationship to the Chinese state. Huawei is involved in the EU Quantum Flagship through its research offices in Germany. Note that these are European researchers supporting a key EU initiative in an open academic-like environment, but benefiting from Huawei funding. Watch out for whether future examples of this type of collaboration, which most would consider a positive aspect of globalisation, can survive generally cooling relations in some countries.

Events to watch in 2019

CES, 8-12 Jan, Las Vegas, US – Intel’s 2018 keynote announced Tangle Lake, its 49 qubit chip. What will IBM’s 2019 keynote have to say?

QIP, 14-18 Jan, Boulder, US – The premier academic event for Quantum Information Processing. Will it fully develop its business programme?

EQTC, 18-22 Feb, Grenoble, France – The inaugural conference for those wanting to follow the progress of the EU Quantum Flagship.

BQIT, 1-3 Apr, Bristol, UK – Updates from across quantum technologies. Watch for updates on UKNQT Phase 2.

PQCrypt, 8-10 May, Chongqing, China – The premier academic event for Post Quantum Cryptography. What will we learn about NIST Round 2?

Crypto, 18-22 Aug, Santa Barbara, US – NIST’s 2nd PQC Standardisation conference will be co-located with this event. Will clear leading protocols have emerged?

QCrypt, 26-30 Aug, Montréal, Canada – The premier academic event for Quantum Cryptography. Will we learn more about the wider potential of the Quantum Internet?

ETSI Quantum Safe Workshop, Sep/Oct, Seattle, US – One of the few forums where a business accessible discussion spanning all aspects of quantum safe cryptography takes place. With Amazon hosting the 2019 event will we see a further uptick in corporate visibility?

UKNQT Showcase, 15 Nov, London, UK – Exhibits on display from across the quantum sector. The 2018 Showcase set a high standard. Will the pipeline of projects have moved on?

Q2B, 9-11 Dec, Mountain View, US – This conference, presented by QC Ware, saw influential presentations and announcements in 2017 and 2018. What will we see in 2019?

Fact Based Insight wishes all of those working in the Quantum Technology sector a successful 2019.

David Shaw

About the Author

David Shaw has worked extensively in consulting, market analysis & advisory businesses across a wide range of sectors including Technology, Healthcare, Energy and Financial Services. He has held a number of senior executive roles in public and private companies. David studied Physics at Balliol College, Oxford and has a PhD in Particle Physics from UCL. He is a member of the Institute of Physics. Follow David on Twitter and LinkedIn


  1. David Shaw
    David Shaw -

    Since this article was first published, IBM went on to announce the IBM Q System One quantum computer at CES. This is based on the IBM Q 20 processor. IBM are working with Q-Ctrl on control layer software for future devices.

  2. David Shaw
    David Shaw -

    NIST have announced 26 algorithms being taken into round 2 of the PQC Standardisation process. Round 2 evaluation is expected to take 12-18 months.

    The 17 Second-Round Candidate public-key encryption and key-establishment algorithms are:
    BIKE, Classic McEliece, CRYSTALS-KYBER, FrodoKEM, HQC, LAC, LEDAcrypt (merger of LEDAkem/LEDApkc), NewHope, NTRU (merger of NTRUEncrypt/NTRU-HRSS-KEM), NTRU Prime, NTS-KEM, ROLLO (merger of LAKE/LOCKER/Ouroboros-R), Round5 (merger of Hila5/Round2), RQC, SABER, SIKE, Three Bears

    The 9 Second Round Candidates for digital signatures are:

  3. Pingback: Europe’s drive to create wealth from Quantum Technology – Fact Based Insight

  4. Pingback: Quantum enhanced blockchain – sooner than you think? – Fact Based Insight

  5. David Shaw
    David Shaw -

    Andrew Dzurak of UNSW (and lead scientist at Australian startup SQC) has published ‘Fidelity benchmarks for two-qubit gates in silicon in Nature [57]. The results are far more comprehensive than any before demonstrated with Silicon Spin qubits. Specifically the Controlled-ROT (CROT) gate is 98.0 ± 0.3 % while randomized benchmarking across Clifford gates gives 94.7 ± 0.8 %. Importantly there seems to be a clear indication of how these fidelities can be improved to move them into the fault tolerant region (>99%).

  6. David Shaw
    David Shaw -

    The Chinese quantum community has taken the opportunity of the ITU-T Workshop on Quantum Information Technology in Shanghai to emphasise the scope and scale of their efforts in quantum technology. As if plans for a 35,000km QKD network in China are not enough, Jian-Wei Pan’s proposal to demonstrate quantum entanglement between the earth and the moon are jaw dropping. Pursuing standardisation of quantum technologies via the ITU-T looks to be a natural route for China.

  7. Pingback: Brexit and the Quantum Landscape – Fact Based Insight

  8. David Shaw
    David Shaw -

    The UK National Quantum Computing Centre is set to be at Harwell Campus, a UK science and technology innovation hub with a long connection to high-performance computing. It will foster both its own hardware programme and software developments. The programme board is in place but recruitment of the permanent executive team is not expected to be finalised before early 2020.

  9. David Shaw
    David Shaw -

    PsiQuantum are still tight-lipped about their photonic hardware roadmap. However they have been consistently active on the conference circuit describing their progress on quantum error correction. Are they preparing the community so that it is ready to understand their architecture when it is finally revealed?

  10. Pingback: Quantum error correction – from geek to superhero – Fact Based Insight

  11. David Shaw
    David Shaw -

    Q-CTRL have raised $15m in a seed funding round. Quantum Benchmark have also scored a notably point with credit from John Martinis for their support for Google’s developments. Where there’s noise there’s brass.

  12. Pingback: Quantum supremacy - a new era? – Fact Based Insight

  13. David Shaw
    David Shaw -

    The EU Quantum Flagship has established “building the Quantum Internet in Europe” as a new unifying mission for its programme. The core Flagship has already been supplemented by the OpenQKD and QCI initiatives. When you realise the scope and ambition of what is being proposed, this is a big and bold vision. It’s notable that the UK is still fully plugged-in to the OpenQKD initiative.

  14. David Shaw
    David Shaw -

    Google have finally claimed quantum supremacy based on 53 working qubits in they Sycamore processor. It could be argued that this is slightly later than the ‘early in 2019’ originally anticipated, though Google would no doubt claim that they knew internally in May/June and what followed was simply a delay for peer review. The Google paper in Nature and Scott Aaronson’s article in the New York Times also refer to certified random numbers (private and public) as a potential early application (e.g. in proof-of-stake blockchain). This goes beyond what is offered by conventional QRNG devices. On the downside, the fact that it wasn’t Bristlecone referenced for this announcement leads us to suspect that device hasn’t performed as hoped. IBM were also able to take some of the shine off the headline claim – reminding us to beware hype!

  15. Pingback: Quantum Hardware Outlook 2020 – Fact Based Insight

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