Tell us your challenge, we’ll find the solution. From Aerospace to finance and beyond, Stuart Robertson tells us about quantum computing’s power to deliver smarter, better, more efficient products and service for the future.

Read our Executive Insights "Quantum Computing — a new paradigm or a false dawn?"

Read a transcript of the video below:

There are countless possibilities for how quantum computing may affect businesses. For logistics providers, for pharma companies, IT, when it comes to aerospace, financial services, for governments around the world, quantum computing is set to fundamentally change the way businesses operate. So what does it mean from an investment perspective?

My name's Stuart Robertson and I'm a Principal at L.E.K. and also L.E.K.'s Disruptive Analytics Lead, which means I have responsibility for helping L.E.K. think through how emerging technologies in the analytics space, such as artificial intelligence, affect our work and affect our client's work.

So what is quantum computing? Quantum computing is entirely new form of computation, which exploits the counter-intuitive properties of small particles to enable calculations to be undertaken simultaneously. Wherein a classical computer, they need to be undertaken in sequence. So why is quantum computing a big deal for business? Well, if you are a business that relies on very large computations, whether that is simulation or optimization, then a quantum computer will allow you to address those problems much more quickly. So many thousands or millions of times more quickly than a classical computer would.

So if you're an engineer trying to simulate airflow over a wing when designing a plane, or you're a asset manager trying to balance your portfolio at the backend, or if you're a spy trying to break foreign agents codes, then quantum computing will allow you to do that in the blink of an eye. Whereas, at the moment, that would take millions of years with a classical computer. So why is quantum computing important today? Even though it was proposed over 40 years ago, we have recently seen a number of substantial breakthroughs in the technology, allowing working quantum computers built within the last few years. This has enabled Google to prove quantum supremacy, which is where a quantum computer can demonstrably outperform a classical computer. And most importantly, there is substantial amounts of capital flowing into the research to accelerate its development.

So like any disruptive analytical technology, quantum computing is on a journey, and here at L.E.K., we think about that journey in four stages. The first is the academic stage, which is predominantly the preserve of professors and those at universities. It then moves into a specialist stage where individuals with the skills to perform it will do so for a fee. It then moves to an in-house specialist stage where businesses have the in-house expertise to do it, but it isn't universal. And finally, a universal stage where everybody can use the technology.

So if we think about IT, originally those were mainframes that had to be researched in university. Then you've got specialist companies and individuals who knew how to program them. Then an in-house computer would be used by a business. And finally, we all use IT today as a regular part of our jobs. Quantum computing is in a different stage to that. It's just moving out to the academic and is now approaching the specialist. So there are now businesses that specialize specifically in quantum computing technologies that are being offered to clients. And we only expect that to accelerate over the next 10 years as the technology evolves. So when faced with an emerging technology of high complexity, like quantum computing, an executive can be forgiven for saying, "I don't have a PhD in physics. There's no way I can understand this." But that would be a mistake.

For one thing, we at L.E.K. monitor the effects of this technology regularly and can act as a guiding hand to understand its impacts on your business, understand which of your operations could be transformed by quantum computing, and how you can think through its implications and how to manage going forward. As an example of how quantum computing might transform your organization, if we think about engineering at the moment where an awful lots of highly educated, very intelligent engineers come up with designs that may work, and then test them by simulating what would happen to them. In a quantum computing environment, many of these problems can be solved by simulating all possible outcomes, and then judging which of those works the best for the purpose.

This means organizations will have to redeploy their skillset to move those engineers away from thinking hard about what the design should be. Engineers can instead use the extraordinary power provided by quantum computing to test far greater possibilities that were available before and by doing so, get a much more closely optimized design than one they could come up with just off their own back. Quantum computing is set to fundamentally change the way businesses operate. It is highly disruptive. And a lot of planning needs to go into place to be able to establish that. For those businesses which are able to adopt quantum computing in a timely manner, they will see improved profitability and new revenue streams that they otherwise couldn't tap. For those who were left behind, this could be a substantial competitive threat to the way they do business. So what does it mean from an investment perspective? Well, as these companies reach scale and prove their technology, they are raising substantial capital.

In October 2021 alone, capital was raised valuing quantum computing companies at almost 10 billion U.S. dollars. So when it comes to companies like financial services, rebalancing is going to be quicker, more efficient, and more cost effective than it has ever been before. For pharma companies, the quantum computing would, for example, allow you to model the effects of proteins at a much more granular detail and enable far more effective therapeutic outcomes. For logistics providers, quantum computing will allow routes and deliveries to be optimized to a level that will substantially improve the cost and the environmental impact of transporting goods around the world. So for governments around the world, choosing how to invest and what policies to implement to accelerate the learning and adoption of quantum computing in your country will be essential to ensure a longterm international competitive edge.

Here at L.E.K., we are extremely experienced at helping businesses navigate through disruptive technologies, and we would be glad to help you on your quantum computing journey. If you tell us your challenge, we can help you find your solution.

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