The world has entered the Quantum Decade — an era when enterprises begin to see quantum computing’s business value. With so-called “quantum advantage” — when these machines become better than traditional computers alone at a specific, practical task — likely by the middle of this decade, the technology could soon disrupt business models and redefine entire industries.

Based on quantum mechanical phenomena to process information that defy how we experience the world; quantum computers appear to be science fiction come to life. For example, the number of classical bits needed to simulate our 127-qubit “Eagle” processor would equal more than the number of atoms contained in all of the more than 7.5 billion people on Earth. The unprecedented recent advances seen across hardware, software development and services, validate the technology’s momentum.

Against this backdrop, and the Singapore government’s investment in quantum — including nationwide trials of quantum-safe communications technologies to protect today’s systems and data from future, more-powerful quantum computers — now is the time for business and technology leaders to accelerate their preparation.

A quantum future for Singapore industry and economy

First movers are already experimenting in domains such as chemical modeling, scenario simulation, optimisation, and artificial intelligence — areas where quantum computing has the potential to tackle some of today’s hardest computational challenges.

Take finance and logistics, two sectors of particular importance to Singapore’s economy: quantum computing’s ability to derive patterns from complex data could be a game changer for financial institutions. Quantum machine learning techniques are of great interest to improve processes such as credit scoring and fraud detection, where every percentage improvement in classification has large economic benefits. And in the face of more sophisticated risk-profiling demands and rising regulatory hurdles, quantum computing could speed up these time-consuming risk-scenario simulations with higher precision, while also testing more outcomes. HSBC, for example, is working with our scientists on quantum capabilities in pricing and portfolio optimization, sustainability, risk, and fraud.

Improving decision making and recovery times with faster, more accurate simulations, as well as reducing inefficiencies and port congestion with more-accurate optimisation techniques are also key potential applications in logistics and transportation. ExxonMobilis exploring how quantum computing could address the complex optimisation problem of finding optimal routes for its LNG shipping fleet.

Building Singapore’s quantum workforce talent

Continuing to unlock quantum computing’s full potential won’t be possible, though, without a focus on skills and workforce development. Singapore is aiming to boost its engineering capabilities and human capital through targeted initiatives. The recent announcement of the National Quantum Computing Hub is a strong indication of commitment by the Singapore government.

In partnership with government, internship programmes and university curricula investments by business are key. In addition, accelerating workforce training across three areas is critical: quantum computing and its “roadmap to value” for executives; quantum algorithms and their application to real-life use cases for domain experts; and industry-focused technical skills, more broadly.

Businesses also need to pave a path for developers to demonstrate proficiency in quantum software development. This is why IBM developed the first quantum developer certification, and Qiskit, an open-source software development kit that works with quantum computers, regardless of architecture.

What’s next for Singapore’s quantum future?

The transformational potential of quantum is evident but, as we look ahead, two things are clear:

First, industry and academia must continue building a strong quantum ecosystem based on innovation and open-source development. For example, IBM Quantum Network academic partner National University of Singapore, and startups Entropica Labs and Horizon Quantum Computing are driving fundamental quantum research using our hardware and simulators in the areas of machine learning, chemistry, and more.

Second, the end of the Quantum Decade will look nothing like the beginning. We’ll soon be working with quantum processors with thousands of qubits. We’ll have a whole workforce with years of experience in quantum research and programming. And enterprises will be in position to take advantage of quantum’s payoff.

As we are now seeing accelerated movements towards true business value, the demand for hardware, software and interdisciplinary quantum talent will soar in Singapore.

Any enterprise leader who isn’t actively building quantum into their plans risks being left behind.

Dr Scott Crowder is vice president, IBM Quantum Adoption.