Coming Soon. Or Here Already? Quantum Computing-as-a-Service


Alongside Oxford’s commitment to advancing AI technologies, delivering a quantum compute capability to the commercial sector in a service format is an equally effervescent field of enquiry  both the city and the university. As such, Oxford is reckoned to be the UK’s largest and most diverse centre for quantum research with 38 operational research teams focused on harnessing quantum effects in a new generation of devices that will outperform existing classical computers.

And some of this endeavour has found its way to real-world application, most notably with Oxford Quantum Circuits, who operate the UK’s only commercially-available quantum computer  in the UK. OQC’s Quantum Computing-as-a-Service (QCaaS) platform has been put to work, most notably in a project managed by Cambridge Quantum to address one of the most pressing challenges of the quantum era, the threat to security encryption. Cambridge Quantum used Oxford Quantum Circuits’ QCaaS platform to validate their cybersecurity approach by using verifiable quantum entropy from quantum computers to generate superior cryptographic keys.

Launched in July 2021, Oxford Quantum Circuits’ confident march into the commercial PAYG market identified a range of enterprise applications where a quantum compute capability has the potential to generate exponential gains, including supporting Oxford’s disciplinary focus on AI, with quantum offering the capability to develop yet more powerful algorithms with endless application.

But the reach of quantum will extend far beyond the application of AI. The early adopters of QAAS services are expected to be the pharmas in their search for better predictive health models and therapies, financial institutions seeking more reliable assessments of trading and risk management strategies, energy generators, especially in fields such as battery chemistry and battery management systems (BMS) and organisations concerned with cryptography and national security.

As part of the technology maturity cycle however, the enterprise application of QAAS is perhaps still some way off. Amazon Bracket, the environment designed to enable the testing and validation of quantum algorithms is currently dominated by researchers and government agencies, such as the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics, rather than a phalanx of commercial companies. But for sectors where the dividend is significant, the adoption rate will pivot quickly. The AI/ML experience tells us that the banking and financial sectors typically have the muscle to invest in nascent technologies, especially as the wins for first movers can be significant while less adventurous competitors languish, limited by the constraints of classical computing.

Thus expect QAAS customers in the first instance to come from the banking and finance services industry as they focus on increasing the speed of trade activities, transactions, and data processing manifolds.

Alongside the finance sector, expect to see the pharmaceuticals flock to quantum, again driven by first mover advantage. By the time this pattern is established, QAAS will be as common as classical cloud-based computing is today, in other words quickly becoming ubiquitous in most enterprise contexts and according to KPMG, worth US$86 billion by 2040.

Read more about quantum’s pioneers, including Oxford’s Ilana Wisby here