The long and winding road to quantum computers is an exciting new topic for market analysts!

Quantum technologies started receiving private investment in 2012.  Since that year, almost $2B have been invested in tens of start-ups working on computing, software, cryptography and sensors. Companies developing hardware have the largest share, exceeding 60%, according to Quantum Technologies 2021 report by Yole Développement (Yole). In 2020, many deals have been made as well, indicating that COVID-19 did not slow down the interest. North America made the largest investments in PsiQuantum’s photonic quantum processor, D-Wave’s superconductor qubits, IonQ’s trapped ions and Rigetti (superconducting qubits). But this doesn’t mean we will soon have quantum computers ready. At Yole we believe investors are today more interested in possible future critical technologies for quantum computers than believing they have invested in companies that will deliver off-the-shelf quantum computers in less than five years. Quantum technology promises much, especially for computing, but it is still subject to technology and application uncertainties.

It is difficult to argue that quantum will follow a similar evolution as semiconductors did from the 1950s until now. The technologies are very different. There is no defined architecture like the one von Neumann defined for classical computers. Issues such as whether storage and computing will be done in separate places are unresolved. Also, a challenge for quantum computers is the development of turning problems like simulating taxi movements in Beijing into a quantum language with specific software. This software should ideally be agnostic and not dependent on the qubit or architecture technology. And of course, we cannot say today whether a law equivalent to Moore’s law will exist for quantum in the future, as volume scalability is still an issue for qubit manufacturing.

Technology uncertainty is reflected by the very large diversity of qubit approaches, from superconducting qubits, the most common today, to new approaches, such as carbon nanotubes. Even if superconducting junctions have reached industrialization stage with D-Wave, other qubit technologies could be found. The decision about which qubit technology will be favored is still up for debate.

The architecture will also require intensive R&D. We do not believe a universal Quantum Processing Unit (QPU) will be achieved in the short term. We will go from emulators to annealers, to Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum (NISQ) machines and finally a universal quantum computer. The realization of a sufficiently large capacity and robust QPU will take time. One new interesting step to start using the power of quantum computing is to develop quantum accelerators that can be incorporated into High Performance Computing (HPC) systems. Indeed, using this combination of HPC processors and quantum accelerators will solve selected computational tasks more efficiently. Currently, one of the most prominent examples of an accelerator is the Graphics Processing Unit (GPU). But here again, there will be technological barriers to overcome for scalability, and CMOS could bring its batch manufacturing advantage here. It is very likely that thermodynamic control will be required even for accelerators. Logical interactions between conventional and quantum processing systems need to be defined.

Will quantum be realized via a technological push or a market pull? Quantum computers will first be used for simulation, followed by scenario optimization and machine learning applications. But scenario forecasting is trickier and is unlikely to be used within 20-30 years. Possible first uses of quantum computing at a large scale are still unclear. Pharmaceutical applications are today attracting most of the attention for quantum computing. However, it will take many years, maybe 20-30, before quantum is widely used in medical and pharma applications. On the optimistic side, quantum computing could be ready to be used in 5-10 years for drug development when there is already an identified drug candidate, but for drug discovery it might take more than 20 years. Then, following the adoption of quantum in the pharmaceutical industry, other applications could follow. Energy, chemistry, transportation, banks and finance could adopt quantum computing in more than ten years.

The quantum race continues, although use-cases and market forecasts for computing are still unclear. And it is just the beginning. In early 2021, a Chinese start-up, Shenzhen SpinQ Technology, unveiled plans to sell a desktop quantum computer costing less than $5,000 for schools and colleges to democratize quantum technology.

For market analysts, quantum technologies will be a very interesting topic to investigate in the next decades!

About the author

Eric Mounier - Yole Développement

With more than 25+ years’ experience within the semiconductor industry, Eric Mounier PhD. is Director of Market Research at Yole Développement (Yole). Eric provides daily in-depth insights into current and future semiconductor trends, markets and innovative technologies (such as Quantum computing, Si photonics, new sensing technologies, new type of sensors …). Based on relevant methodological expertise and a strong technological background, he works closely with all the teams at Yole to point out disruptive technologies and analyze and present business opportunities through technology & market reports and custom consulting projects. With numerous internal workshops on technologies, methodologies, best practices and more, Yole’s Fellow Analyst ensures the training of Yole’s Technology & Market Analysts.
In this position, Eric Mounier has spoken in numerous international conferences, presenting his vision of the semiconductor industry and latest technical innovations. He has also authored or co-authored more than 100 papers as well as more than 120 Yole’s technology & market reports.
Previously, Eric held R&D and Marketing positions at CEA Leti (France).
Eric Mounier has a PhD. in Semiconductor Engineering and a degree in Optoelectronics from the National Polytechnic Institute of Grenoble (France).

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Quantum technologies 2021 - Yole Développement

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