Feds pitch plan for quantum science

The federal government unveiled plans to spend $360 million on Canada’s quantum science sector to secure the country’s position as a leader in the space (and if everything goes to plan, render all your devices obsolete). 

Why it matters: Canada has been a pioneer in the quantum computing space, but with rivers of money now flowing into the sector—$16.4 billion within the next four years, by one estimate—we risk losing our early lead. 

  • That would be a missed opportunity for our economy if projections showing the quantum computing market growing to US$8.6 billion by 2027 hold true.
  • The money from the feds is set aside for R&D, attracting talent, and commercializing new technology.

Catch up: At a high level (very high, because we are not scientists), quantum computers get their computing power from quantum bits (or “qubits”), which can deliver far more computing power than the type of computer we’re all accustomed to.

  • In theory, this could allow quantum computers to quickly solve all sorts of problems that would take classical computers a very long time to figure out.
  • For example, a working quantum computer could model extremely complex financial risks, design better batteries, or break cryptography measures to hack sensitive data.

Zoom out: Other governments and businesses are also making big bets on quantum computers. 

  • China and the US, racing to stay ahead of each other in a technological arms race, are investing around $100 million per year in quantum science.
  • IBM CEO Arvind Krishna has said his company will have a working quantum computer by 2025 that could solve problems which would require a planet-size classical computer to tackle.

Yes, but: Some aren’t convinced that quantum computers are anywhere close to being useful in the real world. 

  • Scott Aaronson, a computer scientist and professor at the University of Texas at Austin, has argued that quantum researchers are over-hyping their progress to secure more funding and investment. 

Bottom line: Even with the payoff uncertain, Canadian policymakers are willing to spend now to stay in the race to develop real-world applications for quantum tech.