Quantum Computing: The Economist Weighs In

Published by whurley (04/24/2017)

Jason Palmer has written the best piece on quantum computing ever.

I was already a huge fan of The Economist’s Technology Quarterly. I just wanted to say that up front. But “Here, There And Everywhere,” Jason Palmer’s piece on quantum computing technology starting to come into its own, is phenomenal. It’s no small feat to plumb the depths of a topic so complex in such an easy to read article.  To do it while providing such a thorough look at the current state-of-the field is a real achievement.


While the piece does cover some quantum computing back story, it’s also chock full of the now. It’s got tons of numbers, and I love me some numbers. Around $1.5 billion spent worldwide in 2015 on non-classified quantum technology research, $360 million of that in the U.S. alone (according to McKinsey). China was close behind with a $220 million investment. The European Union invested a whopping $550 million.  This level of investment means two things: quantum products are within sight, and the pace of development is increasing.

Besides the big investment totals, the volume of patents in the space was also positive. Palmer breaks patent applications down into three main categories: quantum computing, quantum cryptography, and quantum sensors. As you might imagine, China and the U.S. are the major players. The U.S. leads the pack in filing for patents in quantum computing with 295, and quantum sensors with 105.  China applied for 29 quantum computing patents and 104 sensor patents.  But when it came to quantum cryptography, China far outpaced the U.S., 367 to 233.


If you’re at all into quantum computing, read this article. From quantum sensors that depend on the tiny flaws in diamonds to the players working on software for quantum computers, it’s a great snapshot. But to me the main value it provides is a summary of the economics of a nascent but growing industry. An industry that will become the focus of more and more speculation and excitement as we move towards a future in which quantum computing will become an integral part of our everyday lives.