In 2020, D-Wave commissioned 451 Research to survey 253 enterprise decision-makers based in the US, UK, Germany and France on their quantum computing experiences and the potential for the quantum computing market. (More detail on the study and respondents can be found in the Methodology section at the end of this paper.) To ensure an unbiased study, respondents did not know the survey was being conducted for D-Wave, and D-Wave was not involved in choosing specific respondents. In terms of organizations surveyed, 94% of respondents work for companies that have more than $1bn in revenue. The 10 largest industries represented, in descending order, were Software & Internet, Manufacturing, Retail, Financial Services, Chemicals, Healthcare, Insurance, Telecommunications, Transportation and Oil & Gas.
The study findings reveal that enterprises are interested in quantum computing and perceive it as providing a competitive edge. A surprisingly large amount of organizations are already experimenting today, and the majority have use cases in mind for where quantum computing could make an impact. This impact will be greatest in solving complex problems, many of which are being abandoned by enterprises today, despite quantum computing potentially offering a solution. Optimization problems in particular are seen as being the most valuable to solve via quantum computing. Considering that enterprises are leveraging quantum computing to obtain a competitive advantage, those not experimenting now may be at a disadvantage in the future.
Today, more than one in three enterprises (35%) surveyed are already experimenting with quantum computing, and 4% are developing their own quantum computing applications. Within three years, 68% of enterprises are set to be considering quantum computing as a solution to a specific business problem. While 62% of enterprises are not using quantum computing in 2020, by mid-2023 only 19% of organizations will have no plans or candidates for quantum computing. Clearly, quantum computing has made an impact on the mindset of organizational decisionmakers, and the majority are keeping an open mind with regard to how it might impact them over the next few years.
Notably, respondents in the transportation, insurance, financial services and chemical industries were more likely than other respondents to indicate an intent to begin using quantum computing for their businesses within the next three years. These industries, not coincidentally, are among the most likely to have business problems that are already expressible in – or can translate easily to – algorithms that match up with the capabilities of near-term quantum computers.
There were naysayers too, of course. But only 29 of our sample of 253 respondents said they weren’t using or considering quantum computing, and the top reason cited by these respondents was expense – 62% said the expense of using quantum computing couldn’t be justified in the business case. However, we believe cloud-based quantum computers could address such challenges through SaaS consumption, and would also help address skills gaps, which was an issue raised by 59% of respondents as a challenge to adoption. Meanwhile, only nine respondents said they didn’t believe quantum computing was ready for the mainstream.
Most of our survey respondents view solving these problems as a way of differentiating themselves. Over half of respondents say their overall interest in quantum computing is about giving themselves a competitive advantage in the market, with 21% stating that it could help them survive against competitors. This demonstrates that quantum computing isn’t just a mechanism for solving academic or theoretical problems – organizations’ interest in quantum computing is tied to driving a tangible, financial return. In fact our respondents believe that solving these problems can increase profitability: 78% see quantum computing having a significant impact on creating a new product, and 67% see it as having a significant impact on a faster time to market.
It is reassuring that our study respondents are considering such use cases, since the ability to encode multiple states in the uncertainty of particles and then evaluate this once is the key feature of quantum computing. These are mathematically ‘hard’ problems, which a traditional computer would need to run a vast amount of iterations to solve. The more variables to take into account, the far greater the time and resources need to compute. In practice, traditional computers adopt heuristic approaches with a limited number of variables and states to make an estimate of a best course of action, because processing every possibility might take decades or even millennia. Even with huge capacity, there are problems that can’t viably be solved by traditional computers today.
With regard to expertise, those respondents who rated themselves as knowledgeable about quantum computing are more likely to see opportunities: 64% of knowledgeable respondents said quantum computing would have a transformative or significant impact on their organization, compared with 57% of those with some knowledge of quantum concepts and 46% of those with little awareness of the subject. Quantum computing is a totally different computing model than the traditional computers used at home and work today, and new skills are required to code and analyze problems in the quantum world. Those with some knowledge of quantum computing are inevitably going to spot those problems that could be better solved with a quantum computer.
Many organizations are experimenting with quantum computing today. Over the next three years, the majority of our study respondents will have specific problems in mind for which they believe quantum computing might hold the key. Organizations are currently abandoning projects because they are simply too complex or resource-intensive to effectively address, despite the fact that the resolution of many of these problems is considered business-critical.
Optimization problems in particular were identified by study respondents as being among the most interesting uses for quantum computing. Ultimately, solving these problems doesn’t just bring efficiency, it brings competitive advantage – the primary reason our survey respondents are interested in quantum computing.
Building a business case for quantum computing is the biggest challenge to broad adoption perceived by enterprises today. However, since many quantum computers are now accessible in the cloud, with supporting tutorials and documentation, getting started with quantum computing is less a question of opening corporate coffers and more a question of opening the minds of decision-makers to pursue first steps in quantum experimentation.
Organizations that have identified potential use cases should consider starting now. An investment of time in talking to vendors today – and opening minds among business units, data scientists, R&D teams and developers about the possibilities of quantum computing – could pay dividends in the not-too-distant future.
Considering that most enterprises see quantum computing as providing competitive differentiation for their businesses, the risk of not getting started now is that one day you may well be at a disadvantage with regard to your competitors. Study respondents who were more educated on quantum computing were found to be more positive about its benefits. Educating your employees now means they’ll be better placed to identify opportunities as they arrive.