Most people would not use the terms, “groundbreaking” or “amazing” or “revolutionary,” in their descriptions of the year 2020, but they are some of the terms that folks in the quantum field have used to describe the dizzying global achievements notched by nearly every segment of the quantum field — from hardware to software, from research and development to commercialization and promotion.
It’s been an indisputably trailblazing year for quantum. But, could this be the new normal? What does the future hold? With the breathless pace of last year’s achievements in mind, this is not an easy task. But, here are five trends that should be watched in the upcoming 12 months, more or less.
1. China Will Continue to Play the Quantum Wildcard
China will be closely watched during 2021, as the nation’s scientists’ announcement of quantum supremacy officially places it on the list among global quantum leaders. The news has already sent shockwaves across the world among government and defense officials because of the national security implications. Any further announcements of major advances in quantum, particularly in quantum cryptography, will trigger a seismic shift in funding for quantum technology.
2. Quantum Advantage > Quantum Supremacy
In 2020, news of quantum supremacy was immediately met with three general reactions:
1) No, it isn’t
2) Yes, it is.
3) Who cares?
The debate on how we define quantum supremacy will continue in 2021.
But, while quantum supremacy will continue to earn big headlines and spur on continued scientific debates, companies will aim to make useful, marketable quantum applications to earn money. We will see more companies pushing for quantum advantage to make quantum technology practical — and to validate their investments in the technology.
3. Business and Institutions Struggle to Staff the Quantum Workforce
Will businesses find it difficult to hire enough highly trained workers to further their quantum ambitions, colleges and universities will scramble to recruit and train students for careers in quantum.
Expect 2021 to be a year where businesses will step up recruitment efforts to find talent to staff their organizations. Also look for universities and institutions to increase their programming focused on quantum technology and quantum information sciences.
4. First Quantum Flameouts
We’ve been lucky. In 2020, we have only seen growth for the most part. We have only witnessed creation. But, Dr. Schumpeter is waiting — and not patiently.
Not all quantum startups will become quantum companies. As technologies and platforms demonstrate their worth — or lack thereof — some quantum startups will quietly – or loudly – bow out. We may see the first of those flameouts in 2021. What remains to be seen is, if those flameouts happen, what will be the collateral damage?
5. The Quantum Funding Flood Cometh
One thing that 2020 has accomplished, more people know the implications and potential — positive and negative — of quantum technology now than ever. With this much riding on developing quantum, it’s hard to imagine that we will see a decrease in attention.
Where attention goes, the money flows.
As venture capital stalks the next big quantum thing and governments prepare to parry attacks on national security, expect more money to be poured into quantum research and development labs and into the hands of quantum entrepreneurs.
Thank you for reading and supporting The Quantum Daily and The Quantum Insider. No matter what happens. The Quantum Daily will be here doing our best to cover these historic times in quantum technology and offer you context and actionable intelligence on what is coming next.
Matt Swayne is a contributor at The Quantum Daily. He focuses on breaking news about quantum discoveries and quantum computing. Matt enjoys working on -- and with -- startups and is currently working on a media studies master's degree, specializing in science communication.