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Key Questions for Quantum Computing in Chemistry

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First, it is important to recognize that quantum computing (QC) is not a panacea for chemical discovery. It is just one potential new tool in the toolbox of chemical discovery. Other tools used today include classical computational chemistry, big data and AI, high-throughput screening via physical experiments, automated laboratories, laboratory information systems and, last but not least, human intellect and creativity.

The following Q&A's describe some of the key questions for potential investors in, and users of, quantum computing in Chemistry. Our answers are typically 2 pages and written for a general audience.

Q1. Will quantum computers ever be useful for chemistry?

A1. Nobody knows yet. The QC engineering challenges are formidable. Potential useful applications for chemistry are likely to be beyond 2030. Read


Q2. How could QC best benefit the process of chemical discovery?

A2.  By providing exponential quantum advantage (EQA) in the calculation of properties of molecules and materials. No such EQA has yet been proven. Read

Q3. Will QC be more powerful than AI for drug discovery?

A3. Probably not. The number of possible different drug molecules is virtually infinite. AI can scan vast numbers of potential drugs very rapidly but QC in chemistry presently requires significant, time consuming human input.  It is possible that QC might help speed up the AI calculations. Read

Q4. Could QC be valuable for other areas of chemistry e.g. materials, batteries, catalysts etc.?

A4. Possibly yes. These systems have far fewer different atom types than drugs, therefore far fewer potential combinations. QC working with human intuition could be valuable.  Read

Q5. Is the supplier ecosystem for QC in chemistry sufficiently well-developed?

A5. Probably yes, at this stage of development. IBM, Google and Microsoft have strong capabilities in QC for chemistry, plus there are 30 to 40 smaller specialists. Universities are always willing to help!  Read

Q6. What should be the investment strategy for QC in chemistry today?

A6. It depends entirely on what type of entity you are. Major global corporations must experiment on a small scale. VCs will explore opportunities and possibly invest. Others should just monitor. Read

Q7. Is there a significant market for quantum computational chemistry services today?

A7. The market is presently very small with around 40 players. We estimate less than $100 million p.a. Read

Q8.Could this market rapidly take-off in the next 3 to 5 years?

A8. Yes, if there are radical new developments in QC hardware e.g., photonic computers.  Read

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