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EY Survey: Most UK Business Leaders Expect Quantum Computing Disruption, But Planning Lags

Red clock. Alarm clock. morning
Red clock. Alarm clock. morning
EY survey found that 81% of senior UK executives expect quantum computing to play a significant role in their industry by 2030. (Envato Images)

PRESS RELEASE — EY’s Quantum Readiness Survey 2022, produced in collaboration with the National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC), has found that 81% of senior UK executives expect quantum computing to play a significant role in their industry by 2030.

This research marks a continuation of the UK’s commitment to developing its quantum computing capabilities, spearheaded by the NQCC alongside policy makers, academia and industry. The NQCC represents a £93m UK Government investment over five years through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) with the aim of placing the UK at the cutting edge of quantum computing.

Despite growing anticipation among senior leaders, strategic planning for quantum computing is in early stages for most organisations. For example, only 33% are engaged in strategic planning related to quantum computing and a quarter have appointed specialist leaders or set up pilot teams.

Quantum computing is in its relative infancy as a technology, but its transformative potential is already being recognised by the UK’s business leaders. While the majority believe its full impact will not be felt immediately, almost half (48%) think that quantum will begin to transform industries as soon as 2025.

Furthermore, respondents were almost unanimous in their belief that quantum computing will create a moderate or high level of disruption of their own organisation, industry sector, and the broader UK economy in the next five years.

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Different sectors of the economy have differing views on the timeline for quantum computing’s maturation. Executives in consumer products and retail are most optimistic, with 70% believing quantum will play a significant role by 2025.

Meanwhile, 56% of telecoms, media and entertainment, and technology (TMT) executives foresee the same impact in this timeframe. However, most respondents in health and life sciences companies think maturation is more likely to occur between 2026 and 2035.

Science Minister George Freeman said: “The UK is at the forefront of a quantum computing revolution that will deliver exponential increases in computer processing power, opening up the possibility to solve problems that were previously unachievable.

“I am pleased to see from this report that business leaders across our economy recognise just how transformational quantum technology will be for the future of their industries, and the work that still needs to be done to get this technology where it needs to be.

“This is why I have made it a priority for this government to develop our National Quantum Strategy this year – to set out a clear plan for ensuring the UK’s leadership in quantum applications that will be able to support industries from life sciences to finance.”

Planning for quantum is lagging behind

Despite the majority of survey respondents forecasting quantum disruption by 2030 or sooner, strategic planning cycles for quantum are lagging behind. Most organisations expect to start their quantum journeys in the next one to two years. Almost three-quarters (72%) will start planning by 2024.

This will involve recruiting people to lead quantum computing efforts across the organisation. Only 25% of the organisations surveyed have done this, but 71% are hopeful of appointing a specialist quantum head in the next two years.

As well as hiring leaders, respondents are aiming to set up pilot teams to explore the potential of quantum for their business: over two-thirds (68%) expect to have done this by 2024, but only 24% have done so already.

Piers Clinton-Tarestad, Quantum Computing Leader EY UKI said: “This study reveals a disconnect between the pace at which industry leaders expect quantum to start significantly transforming businesses and their general preparedness for its impact. Maximising the potential of quantum technologies will require early planning to build responsive and adaptable organisational capabilities – which is a challenge because while the progress of quantum has accelerated it is not following a steady trajectory.

“Quantum readiness” is not so much a gap to be assessed as a road to be walked, with next steps being regularly revisited as the landscape evolves. Businesses that expect industry disruption within the next three or five years, therefore, need to act now.”

Competitive advantage and hi-tech use-cases driving quantum optimism

As with any nascent technology, the drivers for investing in quantum computing are varied and in development.

One factor playing on the minds of almost half (47%) of business leaders is that rival firms are working to develop their own quantum capabilities, which may possibly give them a competitive advantage. Almost all respondents (97%) believe that their competitors are currently engaging with quantum computing in some capacity.

In terms of use-cases, the most promising application for quantum computing foreseen by industry leaders is enhancing operations involving AI and machine learning. This was especially true of leaders within financial services, automotive and manufacturing.

Quantum’s ability to accelerate computational modelling and simulations are front of mind for those in health and life sciences, while TMT respondents cited its potential to evolve existing methods of cryptography and encryption as its most critical function.

Dr Simon Plant, Deputy Director for Innovation, National Quantum Computing Centre said: “Quantum computing is expected to significantly speed up the time to solution for certain tasks, addressing computational problems that are currently intractable using conventional digital technologies. The pace of development is accelerating, and the question is how and when – not if – quantum computing can address industrially-relevant use cases. There is a perceived first-mover advantage in being prepared to harness the capabilities as they emerge and build resilience into forward plans.”

The NQCC is working with businesses, government and the research community to deliver quantum computing capabilities for the UK and support the growth of the emerging industry. This report is a key part of that work helping explain why the UK needs to be at the forefront of quantum computing and to demonstrate how strategically important this technology is to the country.

For more market insights, check out our latest quantum computing news here.

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Matt Swayne

With a several-decades long background in journalism and communications, Matt Swayne has worked as a science communicator for an R1 university for more than 12 years, specializing in translating high tech and deep tech for the general audience. He has served as a writer, editor and analyst at The Quantum Insider since its inception. In addition to his service as a science communicator, Matt also develops courses to improve the media and communications skills of scientists and has taught courses. [email protected]

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