How can we manage risks associated with quantum?

March 9th, 2022

The World Economic Forum held a seminar on March 1 to build awareness around the recently released guidelines on Quantum Computing Governance Principles and discuss ways of operationalising them.  

Quantum FSP Director Professor Jim Rabeau participated in the panel discussion, alongside: 

  • Executive Director of the European Quantum Industry Consortium (QuIC), Thierry Botter (Germany);  
  • Head of Science and Technology and IBM Europe’s Lead of Quantum Research, IBM Fellow, Heike Riel (Switzerland); and  
  • Chief Executive Officer of QuintessenceLabs, Vikram Sharma (Australia)

The session was moderated by Reena Dayal, Chairperson, Quantum Ecosystems and Technology Council of India, and Volunteer Quantum Computing Leader, IEEE (USA). The AI Lead, Centre for Fourth industrial Revolution, World Economic Forum, Arunima Sarkar, was also involved in the session as the lead on the development of the WEF governance principles. 

A screenshot of the 4 panelists and moderator, appearing over their webcams to the virtual event.

The World Economic Forum seminar in action.

Awareness as key to managing risk 

Jim spoke about two main themes – ‘creating awareness’ (or as we like to refer to it: increasing ‘Quantum IQ’), and ‘open innovation’ and the need for quantum technology to draw more deeply and comprehensively on a range of areas in order to succeed. This could include science, engineering, new materials, fabrication and processing, mathematics and programming.  

Jim pointed out that awareness and understanding are important in the translation of problem to solution and vice versa. This applies not only to industry application areas where quantum may enable a transformational new solution, but also in ‘quantum adjacent’ industries which are important in developing the support infrastructure and technologies that enable quantum control and measurement. At a different level, quantum awareness is important as a means to communicate the realities of quantum, manage expectations of the general public and mitigate risks associated with misinformation. 

“To me, awareness underpins everything associated with the successful development and adoption of this technology,” Jim explained. 

“More importantly, establishing deeper awareness will help manage how people perceive and embrace such a new technology,” he said. 

Jim explained that one initiative underway right now is the development of a National Quantum Strategy for Australia, which will help raise awareness. 

A diagram of 2 concentric wheels divided into sections describing the core values of the WEF guidelines.

Other Core Values developed as part of The World Economic Forum’s latest Insight report on Quantum Computing Governance Principles,

Guidelines could accelerate innovation and collaboration 

Moreover, the principles include actions like open dialogue and development of use cases, forums designed to bring journalists and media together with quantum experts, and overall, managing expectations. 

Jim said it is clear that quantum technology is different, in that to succeed it has to draw more deeply and comprehensively on a range of areas across science, engineering, new materials, fabrication & processing, mathematics and programming. 

He said that having these principles to guide open innovation and raise awareness could not only help mitigate risks mentioned in the guidelines, but potentially accelerate and sustain innovation and technological development.  

“Open innovation can be challenging and there’s a bit of a balancing act to establish so that creativity is free to roam and innovate, and not have to deal with guidelines that are constraining or prescriptive – they need to be carefully thought through and tested,” he said. 

“The hope is that we will test the guidelines with end-users in Australia drawing on an already established quantum network”. Jim said.

More information 

You can read more about the WEF’s Quantum Computing Governance Guidelines here.