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Quantum technology coming of age as commercial applications emerge

5 June 2023

Wenmiao Yu, a committee member of the quantum Business Innovation and Growth (qBIG) Group, witnesses quantum gravitating from the lab to the marketplace – as well as the award of the first IOP qBIG Prize – at Commercialising Quantum Global 2023.

I had two main takeaways from the Economist Impact Commercialising Quantum Global conference in May. The first is that quantum is no longer a science relegated to stuffy basement laboratories – quantum has transformed itself from a field of academic research to a family of technology solutions, some of which are beginning to demonstrate clear commercial value to business users in other industries. The second is that there is more gender diversity in the quantum workforce. There was actually a queue in the women’s washroom at one point!

Having been an entrepreneur in this sector since 2019, I’ve attended a number of quantum-related conferences over the past few years. Some of the talks at earlier events were reminiscent of university lectures. Given that I started Quantum Dice with my cofounders in my last term at university, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I actually remember bumping into some of my university professors at the early quantum events. What I noticed about the content at the Economist Impact event this year, however, is a distinct shift away from technology development and towards commercial applications of quantum technologies.

The BMW case study with Quantinuum, a global quantum computing company, to accelerate hydrogen fuel cell development was particularly interesting. Dr Robert Bruckmeier, Head of AI-based Vehicle Functions and Network AI at BMW Group, presented the work that his team has done with Quantinuum’s developers in using the InQuantum platform to simulate electrode reactions in hydrogen fuel cells.

“Quantum has transformed itself from a field of academic research to a family of technology solutions, some of which are beginning to demonstrate clear commercial value to business users in other industries.”

Of course, quantum computing is still a developing technology, but Dr Bruckmeier highlighted that they were able to achieve demonstrably better results using Quantinuum’s existing quantum computing capabilities as compared to classical high-performance computing (or HPC). This commercial case study provided results to help scientists and business development professions better understand how quantum computers could contribute towards the design of efficient electrodes and catalysts in the future.

An illustration of a very colourful quantum computer chip

The Institute of Physics quantum Business Innovation and Growth (qBIG) Group also announced the winner of its inaugural prize. This was sponsored by Quantum Exponential, which is a leading global venture capital firm focused on investing into quantum technology companies. The £10,000 qBIG Prize went to Cerca Magnetics for developing the world’s first wearable magnetoencephalography (MEG) scanner to measure human brain function and dysfunction in neurological or psychiatric conditions. Conventional MEG scanners are heavy, large and require patients to remain still for extended periods of time.

Cerca Magnetics is an excellent example of how quantum technologies are already being used in the real world, and how university research was translated into a revenue-generating product with demonstrably better performance (higher sensitivity and better spatial precision) than traditional MEG scanners.

As a qBIG group founding officer, I was delighted to have been invited to join fellow qBIG committee member and Chief Investment Officer at Quantum Exponential, Stuart Nicol, on the closing panel of the day to announce the 2023 qBIG Prize winner. It was fantastic to see the breadth of quantum technology applications represented by companies, and to celebrate the entrepreneurial endeavours in bringing these scientific innovations to market, throughout the whole day at this year’s Commercialising Quantum event.

Wenmiao Yu is a qBIG group committee member and cofounder of Quantum Dice