A good starting point to the panel discussion Quantum Computing for Good of Day 2 at Quantum.Tech London 2022 was the excellent Forbes article How Will Quantum Computing Be Used As A Force For Good?, written by Yehuda Naveh, co-founder and CTO of Israeli quantum software startup, Classiq. In it, Naveh gave several examples of quantum for good, including improving credit risk analysis, democratizing financial advising and making business more sustainable.
“Businesses across such sectors as chemistry, finance and logistics will use quantum computing to optimize processes and products and generate new materials and revenues. But quantum also has the power to positively impact communities and the world as a whole
— Yehuda Naveh
The panel, then, moderated by ColdQuanta’s Bob Sutor, featured Bahram Ganjipour, Quantum Initiative Leader, Volvo Cars; Himadri Majumdar, Lead, Quantum Programmes, VTT; John Devaney, Quantum Standards Manager, NPL; Simon Plant, Deputy Director for Innovation, NQCC; and David Hoyle, Lead Data Scientist, Dunnhumby.
Before the panellists introduced themselves, Sutor quipped the auditorium would have been packed if the topic had been “quantum computing for bad”, which the audience and appreciated and set the tone for an insightful forty-five minutes.
Food For Thought
“Quantum for feeding people?” Sutor asked David Hoyle, starting off the discussion.
Hoyle got straight down to business, stressing one of his roles at Dunnhumby — a global customer data science company based in London — was all about quantum and “feeding people”.
And Dunnhumby has expertise here, as its relationship with Tesco, which stretches back to the mid-1990s when they launched the Clubcard, the first mass customization loyalty program in the world — is proof enough.
“Our [Dunnhumby] involvement is all about feeding people,” said Hoyle. “There are still ways a data science company working for supermarkets can use quantum. You could still use existing technologies, but it would be difficult to do so.”
Hoyle mentioned supply chain and minimizing waste, particularly on perishable goods. Dunnhumby’s Lead Data Scientist also stressed that quantum doesn’t directly help his company but helps the supermarkets it serves, though Hoyle said most of Dunnhumby’s retail customers aren’t aware they use quantum to help them.
Identifying Key Use Cases
Attention then moved to the Deputy Director for Innovation at NQCC, Simon Plant, with Suter mentioning Plant as being personally responsible for bringing quantum value to the UK.
“We have a big responsibility at NQCC on how we engage with different sectors of the economy,” Plant began. “The critical thing is the identification of key use cases for quantum as the technology evolves.”
Plant continued by saying the NQCC was using quantum information to find better solutions to benefit society, but also to develop the growth of the British economy, emphasizing the “broad, grand vision” the UK has.
It was John Devaney’s turn to speak next, the Quantum Standards Manager at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), off Sutor’s question on how his organization was benefiting society:
“We’re supporting the SMEs, we’re supporting the generation of a whole new economy, though it’s easy to criticize that these things aren’t addressing what’s really important at the moment like climate change and the energy crisis, but that’s not entirely true, as there are various ways quantum computing and quantum tech can come in and assist.”
Stressing the importance that quantum could mitigate the effects of climate change, Devaney gave the example of modelling the climate and how quantum is a good candidate for doing so. Devaney also noted to do this, however, would require accurate data and the next generation of sensors in satellites, for example.
The powerbroker for everything that happens in national, European and international standards development for the UK quantum technology sector, Devaney then gave the optimistic view that this could have positive repercussions for agriculture, as quantum could predict the best location on the planet for farming.
At this point, Sutor addressed the audience as to some of the falsehoods that have been bandied about regarding quantum as a solution for climate change, alluding to individuals (without naming names) who three or four years before were making the bold claim their quantum technology was a catch-all solution to the global climate headache — as a man of science (like all on the stage), Sutor’s role as party pooper was the level-headed response we all expected and needed, as knee-jerk reactions from the scientific community shouldn’t undermine that the technology can be used for good.
Seeing The Big Picture
The conversation moved to Scandinavia, and Finland in particular.
“Lots is happening in Finland,” said Himadri Majumdar, Lead of Quantum Programmes at Espoo-based VTT, one of Europe’s leading research institutions owned by the Finnish state, “and I’m so glad you recognize that quantum is not just quantum computing but quantum technologies, too. The examples that you have given are close to our heart.”
Majumdar then pointed out that people don’t need to understand the technology, but they need to know they can benefit from it.
“Going back to climate and the tornadoes that rip through regions, the current computer models allow us to predict where the cones will be. Imagine if quantum computing could tell us where exactly it’s going to go,” said Majumdar. “These are going to affect humanity and change lives, and as an R&D organization at VTT innovation is our core activity.”
Majumdar praised the public-private partnerships common in the Nordic country, helping VTT see the “big picture”.
Sustainability was next on the agenda and the corporate culture for sustainability. Sutor turned to Bahram Ganjipour — Quantum Initiative Leader at Volvo Cars — for some answers:
“At Volvo Cars, we care about products that are sustainable and carbon neutral. And we have committed to doing this by 2030. The main reason for this is the climate is a worthy problem. That’s why we are exploring a wide range of technologies, from quantum computing to AI.”
Ganjipour talked about his company’s applications for quantum such as for manufacturing new materials, but highlighted the fact Volvo Cars cannot do it alone, which put Majumdar statement that VTT’s public-private partnerships are the way forward, for both corporates and research centres.
Food delivery, weather prediction and sustainability, three important topics that ultimately led to the conclusion cooperation was key, both now and in the years to come.
This panel discussion — and in particular the focus on sustainability — was a reminder of The Quantum Insider’s own efforts here — in 2021 we released the documentary — Quantum Technology | Our Sustainable Future, developed in partnership with Oxford Instruments Nanoscience, intended as a call to action from industry experts to leverage the power of quantum computing in addressing the world’s urgent sustainability challenges.