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Quantum computing use cases are getting real—what you need to know

McKinsey Digital | Matteo Biondi, Anna Heid, Nicolaus Henke, Niko Mohr, Lorenzo Pautasso, Ivan Ostojic, Linde Wester, and Rodney Zemmel | Dec 14, 2021

harvard physicists - Quantum computing use cases are getting real—what you need to know

A burgeoning quantum-computing ecosystem and emerging business use cases promise to create significant value for industries—if executives prepare now.

Accelerating advances in quantum computing are serving as powerful reminders that the technology is rapidly advancing toward commercial viability. In just the past few months, for example, a research center in Japan announced a breakthrough in entangling qubits (the basic unit of information in quantum, akin to bits in conventional computers) that could improve error correction in quantum systems and potentially make large-scale quantum computers possible. And one company in Australia has developed software that has shown in experiments to improve the performance of any quantum-computing hardware.

As breakthroughs accelerate, investment dollars are pouring in, and quantum-computing start-ups are proliferating. Major technology companies continue to develop their quantum capabilities as well: companies such as Alibaba, Amazon, IBM, Google, and Microsoft have already launched commercial quantum-computing cloud services.

Of course, all this activity does not necessarily translate into commercial results. While quantum computing promises to help businesses solve problems that are beyond the reach and speed of conventional high-performance computers, use cases are largely experimental and hypothetical at this early stage. Indeed, experts are still debating the most foundational topics for the field (for more on these open questions, see sidebar, “Debates in quantum computing”).

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Still, the activity suggests that chief information officers and other leaders who have been keeping an eye out for quantum-computing news can no longer be mere bystanders.

Quantum computing startup activity and investments growing - Quantum computing use cases are getting real—what you need to know

A Growing Ecosystem

  • China and European union lead significantly for public funding on quantum computing
  • Startup activity and investments have sky rocketed since 2015
  • Hardware is a significant bottleneck in the ecosystem - Multiple quantum-computing hardware platforms are under development.
  • Most known use cases fit into four archetypes: quantum simulation, quantum linear algebra for AI and machine learning, quantum optimization and search, and quantum factorization.  Industry use cases in pharmaceuticals, chemicals, automotive and finance.

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