Economic advantage: Preparing for lift off

Talent poaching within industry first warning of things to come

JPMorgan Chase announced on Jan. 22, 2020, the hiring of Marco Pistoia from IBM. A 24-year IBM employee with numerous patents to his credit, Pistoia most recently led an IBM team responsible for quantum computing algorithms. Algorithm development will be key to developing soundly engineered quantum computing systems that can deliver the business outcomes enterprises seek at a faster and more accurate pace than current classical computing systems.

A senior hire into a flagship enterprise in the financial services industry is the proverbial canary in the coal mine, as TBR believes such actions suggest our prediction of quantum achieving economic advantage by 2021 remains on target. Quantum executives discuss the three pillars of quantum commercialization as being:

  • Ongoing scientific discovery to improve the overall fidelity of quantum computing systems; discovery is not the same as a technology road map. These advancements are not easy to predict given the limited supply of individuals skilled in the topics as well as the challenge of pursuing breakthroughs solving the known unknowns.
  • Great advancements have been made in curating scientific discoveries into system components able to generate sufficient yield quality in manufacturing.
  • Application discovery has early activity, most notably in academic research institutions but also within blue chip establishments in the areas of financial services, healthcare, materials science and native cloud companies.

Scientific and engineering obstacles persist, bottlenecking progress. The fluid nature of IP sharing and innovation through ecosystem participation across the above three pillars means businesses that have a trusted track record around groundbreaking innovations will be first to gain the aforementioned economic advantage. As advantage nears, the early adopters will require senior talent with the vision to look across the landscape of technologies and potential use cases and prioritize efforts to gain advantage. Pistoia’s remit will be as the lead researcher for JPMorgan Chase’s Future Lab for Applied Research and Engineering, which seeks out commercial use cases around emerging technologies such as quantum, edge computing, 5G and IoT to create market distinction.

What lessons can be learned from this strategic hire in a domain with acute skills scarcities?

Losing a valued contributor to scientific innovation can certainly hinder an organization such as IBM and decimate smaller firms more reliant on a few key executives. The movement, however, is neither uncommon in industry nor unexpected. Leading technology companies and the professional services firms that translate their capabilities into business results are in the same situation as JPMorgan. Most companies in the industry have focused more on science and engineering than on translating these technical advancements into business value. As economic advantage nears, TBR expects:

  • Talent poaching between technology companies and the leading-edge enterprises they support will accelerate.
  • Advisory services and road maps will be built out rapidly. Smaller, quantum-specific firms will seek to establish these road maps out of necessity, while the advisory firms will likewise seek to find repeatable frameworks to scale across their existing account base. For example, IBM helps enterprises with early exploration through its QStart program while startup Xanadu has built a services team focused on executive education, early corporate preparations or prioritizations, and then the requisite technical training and technical diagnostic services to partner with first-mover enterprises.
  • The ecosystem will be further developed for the cross-sharing of algorithms and best practices as they pertain to the early use cases where economic advantage will appear first.
  • Industry hype and impatience around expected investment returns from enterprise leadership and venture capitalists will continue to present challenges.

Quantum is not a short-term opportunistic investment. In TBR’s opinion, it remains a necessary long-term investment where diligence coupled with patience situate enterprises to exploit first-mover advantage as well as mitigate the risks of falling victim to an economic extinction event brought about by competitor advancements in determining where, and in what sequence, quantum can yield economic advantage.

TBR’s next Quantum Computing Market Landscape will explore the professional services offerings in place or being established by the key market entrants and is due for publication in June 2020. We welcome input on the topical questions our readership would like to see addressed.

Other recent quantum-related publications:

Quick quantum quips: Cloud players are now looking for a piece of the quantum pie

Translating quantum science into business value: Tradeoffs between precision, speed and cost

Quick quantum quips: Hardware entrances gain VC funds while established innovators partner across architectures to secure a place in the broader quantum ecosystem

Traditional ports and quantum computing: The now and the future

Quick quantum quips: A call for quantum supremacy sends ripples through the market

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