Quantum computing and quantum information processing are next revolutionary technology expected to have immense impact. Quantum computers will be able to perform tasks too hard for even the most powerful conventional supercomputer and have a host of specific applications, from code-breaking and cyber security to medical diagnostics, big data analysis and logistics. Quantum computers could accelerate the discovery of new materials, chemicals and drugs. They could dramatically reduce the current high costs and long lead times involved in developing new drugs.
The quest for quantum computing supremacy is a geopolitical priority for Europe, China, Canada, Australia and the United States. The quantum computing market was valued at $472m earlier in 2021 and is expected to reach $1.7bn by 2026, according to a Markets and Markets projection. Boston Consulting Group’s 2018 report that estimates a quantum computing market of nearing $60 billion in 2035, which would grow further to $295 billion in 2050, which explains why nations, corporates and startups alike are all jockeying for first position. Advantage gained by acquiring the first computer that renders all other computers obsolete would be enormous and bestow economic, military and public health advantages to the winner. Governments in Canada, China, Europe, and North America are devoting multi-billion-dollar programs to quantum technologies, and commercial investment is flowing as well.
The potential impact of these technologies on the Canadian economy will be transformative: the National Research Council of Canada has identified quantum technology as a $142 billion opportunity that could employ 229,000 Canadians by 2040. The total economic impact of quantum technologies in Canada is expected to reach C$533 million ($411.2 million) with 1,100 jobs by 2025.
To bolster Canada’s leadership in quantum technology, the federal government announced in its 2021 budget a $360-million funding commitment to build a national quantum strategy. The government invested more than C$1B in quantum research from 2009 – 2020, following up with C$360M for a national quantum strategy in 2021. The sector is seen as key to the economy, as the science matures and more sectors adopt the technology
It also is among the top 10 countries worldwide in planned public funding for quantum technology at more than $600 million, a number that is growing but still behind China with $15 billion, the EU with $7.2 billion and the US with $1.3 billion, McKinsey said.
Canadian Universities are also recognized globally for its strong focus on quantum technology research. In particular, University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing, which has published more than 1,500 research papers, is ranked among other top universities such as Harvard, MIT, and NUS. Collaboration between businesses and research institutions is also present in this space. Montreal-based, Anyon Systems, recently announced that it will deliver Canada’s first quantum computer for public research “Monarch” to Calcul Quebec, a non-profit organization and regional partner of the Digital Research Alliance of Canada, by the first half of 2023.
Others Canadian universities with strong quantum research efforts are the University of Calgary, University of Montreal, University of British Columbia and the University of Sherbrooke. Dozens of startups out of academia already are working on the components needed to build a quantum computer.
The University of Sherbrooke’s Quantum Institute has a collaboration with IBM, becoming the first IBM Q Space hub in Canada, with exclusive cloud-based access to the US company’s most advanced quantum computer systems and software. The collaboration is supported by the provincial government of Quebec.
This private-public partnership is responsible for the creation of the Institute for Quantum Computing, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, the Quantum NanoFab Facility and the Quantum Valley Ideas Lab, all based in Waterloo and focused on different elements of the quantum research life-cycle — from R&D all the way through new product commercialization. British Columbia is home to D-Wave Systems, the first company to have commercialized a quantum computing hardware system. Canada has a growing private sector impact, outstanding research expertise, and extensive government commitments to innovation. This places the country in a very strong position to drive quantum technology development.
The Canadian government demonstrates its support for the quantum industry through funding programs aimed at fostering research, innovation, and commercialization efforts. Specifically, FedDev Ontario in Southern Ontario is delivering Regional Quantum Initiative (RQI), a provincial- interest-free loan-program, designed to help small- and medium-sized businesses, including start-ups located in Southern Ontario to advance and commercialize their quantum products and solutions for domestic and global markets.
To maintain its leadership, Canada needs to move beyond research and development and accelerate a quantum ecosystem that includes a strong talent pipeline, businesses supported by supply chains and governments and industry involvement
Canada already has 23 startup quantum technology companies, second only to the US with 59, according to McKinsey & Co. More than $650 million was invested in Canadian startups between 2001 and 2021. On a per capita basis, this is far beyond the $2.1 billion invested in U.S. companies over the same period.
Established quantum tech companies, like Vancouver-based D-Wave Systems, is recognized as a global leader as it is currently the only company in the world that is building both annealing and gate-model quantum computers. Meanwhile, Toronto-based, Xanadu Quantum Technologies, specializes on building a modular and scalable architecture through optical networking. Both of these companies are members of Quantum Industry Canada (QIC) whose mission is to ensure that Canadian quantum innovation and talent is translated into Canadian business success and economic prosperity.
Joint EU/Canada quantum research projects
European Union (EU) and Canada are announced in Oct 2022 three jointly supported research and innovation projects that will support fundamental research in quantum technology. These quantum research projects will facilitate collaboration between researchers in Canada and the EU. Collectively, these projects gather world-class research teams whose aims are to put quantum technology to work, addressing many technological and societal challenges for the benefit of both EU and Canada, in a way that we could not otherwise achieve separately.
The selected EU-Canada projects, (MIRAQLS -quantum sensing, FoQaCiA -quantum computing, and HYPERSPACE -quantum communications), are co-funded by the EU Quantum Flagship under Horizon Europe, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The three winning projects will share grants of €4million from the EU and close to CAD$5 million in total investments from NSERC over three years.
Research supported through these projects is expected to lead to useful applications in a wide range of fields. The specific applications for quantum sensing (in the MIRAQLS project) will increase the accuracy of measurements in imaging sensors which could be used in fields as diverse as better precision medicine, to more comprehensive detection of pollutants in the atmosphere, to precisely monitoring traffic flows and congestion. Moreover, the design of quantum algorithms for quantum computing (in the FoQaCiA project) will go a long way to improving the processing of increasingly large amounts of data needed to solve complex societal and environmental problems, and exploiting high-dimensionally entangled photons (in the HYPERSPACE project) will contribute to ensuring more secure data processing and transmission.
UK and Canada are collaborating on Quantum Tech.
United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada are backing eight projects that seek to commercialize quantum technologies. According to UKRI, the effort is the first industry-led partnership between any two countries to develop quantum technologies. The partnership follows an agreement signed by the two nations in 2017 to share quantum expertise through academic and business collaborations.
The projects will be sharing £2 million from UKRI and 4.4 million CAD from the Canadian government. The projects include several focused on quantum key distribution for high-security communications, and optical sensors for magnetic fields, as well as new ways to connect integrated quantum photonic devices. Each project has a U.K. business lead and a Canadian academic lead, as well as research organizations and other company and government partners from both countries.