Quantum Computing: Skills Shortage Slowing Quantum Revolution


January 18, 2024

Governments and businesses have collectively invested more than $35 billion in the growing field of quantum computing, recognising its potential to revolutionise various industries. However, companies are facing a significant challenge in finding the right talent due to the quantum computing skills shortage.

This skills shortage is a major obstacle, currently impeding the field’s advancement. Without a sufficient pool of qualified professionals, the substantial investments in quantum computing risk not realising their full potential, highlighting the urgent need for education and training in this cutting-edge area.

The Potential of Quantum Computing

A recent report from the World Economic Forum (WEF) highlights the transformative potential of quantum technology across a wide array of sectors. The successful deployment of quantum computing is anticipated to bring about significant breakthroughs in materials science and biology, enhance optimisation and risk management in complex systems, and substantially influence existing technology areas such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and blockchain.

In healthcare, quantum computing may transform our understanding of the human body, streamline drug design, and expedite genome sequencing, paving the way for personalised medicine and more effective treatments.

Food production is also set to benefit from quantum computing, as it offers promising advancements in the energy efficiency of fertiliser production and the development of environmentally friendly crop-protection chemicals.

Furthermore, quantum computing is expected to be instrumental in creating more efficient solar cells, innovating battery and energy storage systems, and refining gas phase processes like thermal cracking, pyrolysis, and combustion. These developments are set to enhance energy generation and utilisation, marking a significant step forward in various industrial processes and products.

Investment in Quantum Computing

Investment in Quantum Computing has been strong, with several countries globally committing significant sums of money towards the development of the field. China is leading the way in quantum commuting investment, having already committed over $1 billion to the industry, with further funding plans which could add up to as much as $15 billion.

The European Union ranks as the second-largest investor, announcing an investment of $7.2 billion into the sector, with Germany, France, the UK, and the Netherlands leading the charge within the region.

In the United States, the government has earmarked $1.9 billion for quantum computing, closely followed by Japan’s $1.8 billion commitment. In relation to private funding, the landscape is bustling with nearly 200 quantum computing start-ups worldwide, with the United States (59 start-ups) and the European Union (53 start-ups) emerging as the largest contributors. This global investment drive reflects the strategic importance and transformative potential of quantum computing across various industries.

The Skills Shortage

The quantum computing sector, though flush with venture capital and government funding, is grappling with a looming skills shortage that threatens its long-term growth. A McKinsey report highlights a stark imbalance in the job market, noting that for every three quantum computing job openings, there’s only one qualified candidate, with projections suggesting that less than half of all quantum jobs will be filled by 2025.

As the industry shifts towards more practical applications, there’s an increasing demand for recruits with robust engineering knowledge. To address this, initiatives like IBM’s ‘Quantum Experience’ program, launched in 2016, and its open-sourced Qiskit developer kit, are enabling programmers to work with quantum computers using basic Python skills. Similarly, Finnish company IQM Spark is facilitating access to quantum computers for researchers and students from bachelor to PhD levels through its IQM Academy program. It’s thanks to initiatives like these that we are seeing rapid increases in skills using such tools as Qiskit (+129%), PyTorch (+126%) and React.js (+116%) over the past year.

In the UK, the £2.5 billion National Quantum Strategy has identified addressing the skills gap as a top priority. Meanwhile, in the US, the Biden administration has labelled the quantum talent shortage as a “national security vulnerability,” committing to funding talent programs through its National Quantum Initiative Act. These efforts underscore the critical need for skilled professionals in the rapidly evolving quantum computing field.

The Future of Quantum Computing

Quantum computing has the potential to completely transform a number of facets of our existence. Nevertheless, a major obstacle to the field’s complete development is the impending skills gap, which demands attention.

Those who wish to remain up to date with the most recent advancements in this fascinating area can learn about the present and potential futures of quantum technology by reading through articles such as our ‘Top 5 Deals in Quantum Computing’ piece.

Published on 18-01-2024