Massive skill gap stands in the way of a quantum breakthrough – WEF

An effort must be made to ensure that there are enough people with the right skills to fill the explosion of jobs in quantum computing, the World Economic Forum said.

Governments and businesses have invested over $35 billion into quantum computing – a technology that hasn’t yet matured. Existing quantum computing companies already find it troubling to find the right personnel, and the skills shortage stands in the way of the anticipated quantum leap.

The excitement

The World Economic Forum’s State of Quantum Computing report highlights three domains with significant economic, environmental, and societal opportunities.

It argues that the successful deployment of quantum technology could lead to possible breakthroughs in materials science and biology, help with optimization and risk management in complex systems, and significantly impact existing technology areas such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and blockchain.

“This fundamentally new way of computing – it is not just a stronger classical computer – has the potential to dramatically recast our ability to tackle climate change, hunger, and disease. For many, its potential to render common cryptographic technologies obsolete, its economic potential, and its impact on the global digital economy make it geopolitically strategic,” said Derek O’Halloran of the World Economic Forum.

There are high hopes for quantum computers. For example, in healthcare, it could help understand the human body better, lead to more efficient drug design, and allow conducting genome sequencing in a fraction of the time, leading to personalized medicine and increasing treatment efficiency.

In the food industry, quantum computing promises to improve the energy efficiency of fertilizer production and facilitate the design of novel crop-protection chemicals that would leave a less significant carbon footprint.

Quantum computing is also expected to help build more efficient solar cells, design novel batteries, and energy storage systems, and improve model gas phase processes (thermal cracking, pyrolysis, combustion), leading to a more efficient generation and use of energy in various processes and products.

Billions invested

With those mentioned above and many other benefits that the technology brings, no wonder governments and private companies worldwide are pouring money into quantum computing hardware and software applications.

China has already invested over $1 billion in quantum technology, and the country’s longer-term plans include up to $15 billion in investment.

The European Union is the second largest investor in the sector, with a $7.2 billion investment announced, and Germany, France, the UK, and the Netherlands are leading the way.

The US has announced $1.9 billion in government funding and is closely followed by Japan ($1.8 billion).

Regarding private funding, there are almost 200 quantum computing start-ups globally, with the US (59) and the EU (53) being the biggest players.

Quantum investment

Talent shortage

“From a global perspective, every continent already has start-ups in quantum technologies, and this number continues to grow. This business boom would require exponential growth of jobs in quantum technologies over the next two decades,” WEF said.

According to WEF, more than half of quantum companies are currently hiring, and they struggle to find people with the right skills. Most current jobs are highly technical, and the only people trained in the field of quantum technologies are highly academic. Recently, more diverse profiles have appeared, such as marketing and sales roles requiring prior work experience.

“Finding qualified individuals with previous work experience in the world of business or engineering in an already scarce talent pool is proving increasingly difficult,” WEF said, encouraging the introduction of quantum concepts at the primary and secondary education levels.

WEF noted that there are already several higher education programs worldwide focusing on quantum engineering. For example, the US has 11 master’s programs around the world with a focus on quantum technologies, Spain has five, while Germany and the UK each have four.

More from Cybernews:

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Post-quantum cryptography is nearly here. Why the rush?

Baidu reveals its first quantum computer

Quantum computing in warfare: sensing the enemy

NIST names four post-quantum cryptography algorithms

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