Achieving Quantum Advantage Requires a Roadmap: Capgemini

Q&A with Capgemini Q Lab head and CTIO Julian van Velzen
Berenice Baker

September 28, 2022

Capgemini Q Lab head and CTIO Julian van Velzen
Capgemini Q Lab head and CTIO Julian van VelzenCapgemini

Leading consultancy firms have been quick off the mark to ensure they are equipped to support clients looking to adopt quantum computing. Capgemini’s customers, however, include science and engineering-based organizations that want to incorporate other quantum technologies.

Julian van Velzen established Capgemini’s Q Lab, a global network of quantum experts, partners and facilities, focused on three quantum areas: sensing, communication and computing. In this Q&A he discusses how this approach works for Capgemini’s client base and how organizations should set out a personalized quantum advantage roadmap.

Enter Quantum: It's unusual for a consultancy to do offer quantum sensing and communication services as well as computing. Why is this?

Julian van Velzen: Capgemini is a little bit different from some other consultancies. One part of that is we have around 50,000 working on deep engineering services. We have good relations with telcos, automotive and many other industries that are reliant

on all kinds of sensors, for example, lidar for automotive applications.

We have also developed applications for defense and space, including sensitive activities. Pharmaceutical product development is up and coming, especially in engineering areas. So, our approach is more strategic, we want to build parts of the solution as well.

What quantum computer hardware manufacturers are you working with?

We have decided to work with IBM. We have cloud access to their machines, not just for ourselves but also for our clients so they can do meaningful experimentation. The reason we chose IBM is not only because they have very good machines, but they have also arguably one of the most specific and ambitious roadmaps and a very rich ecosystem. Their Quantum Network has loads of clients, publications and events, and that's an important aspect as well.

What sectors are you helping support with quantum computing?

We are focused on industries where we have deep R&D relationships, and we see a deep potential for quantum technologies. That is mobility – automotive and aerospace – life sciences and financial services.

Within those industries, we have started to work on applications where we have already done a lot of interesting things and where we see where technology can speed things up. That includes, for example, risk simulation for financial services. In automotive and aerospace, it involves solving differential equations and machine learning for structural analysis research.

In life sciences, drug discovery is a big field. I think that's one of the most exciting areas, not only in terms of what the technology can bring but also in terms of our relationship with our clients because we've had very deep R&D relationships with many pharmaceutical companies.

I think it will always be a combination of classical and quantum, but you can leverage that deep technical, classical knowledge and build quantum applications on top of it. And I think that's strong in the life science domain.

What is your perspective on quantum advantage?

There have been some very wild claims, and everyone must be critical for themselves. That starts with setting an ambition. What types of applications? What does quantum advantage mean for your company? Do you want to be the first to reach advantage, which means diving deep into the nitty gritty details of mitigation techniques and optimizing algorithms, or do you want to have a more general application where you just want easier access to that use case?

Based on a roadmap, as it starts to become more visible you can define what a journey towards that advantage may look like. And where that's different for many types of clients. You could argue that there is already an advantage in the near term for specific applications where it's something specific, small, or deeply technical.

I'm personally extremely excited about the advances we've made in theoretical physics, for example, sampling new types of matter, like time crystals or, or other types of materials. And that's already something you can do today.

What’s next for quantum?

Quantum is still in the early day; there's a lot of work to be done and technologies to be developed. But that’s not a reason to wait; it's more of a reason to get started today.

This journey looks different for all of our clients. Everyone has a different profile; someone needs to be the first leader and someone else the first follower or someone who waits for a few years. But you need an ambition and a roadmap towards what you want. That will help you to define what steps you have to do at some point.

For most of our clients, it starts with having a small team now to judge various technologies and define different steps. Particularly also in security, there is not much excuse for any company to not have one or two people finding out the threats of quantum technology and deciding when to act.

This is something we have to do today. We can wait for the rest, but I would advise everyone to have an opinion about this.

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