As the rate of progress in quantum computing accelerates, the industrial sector becomes more developed, and potential use-cases become clearer, preparation for the impacts of quantum computing becomes increasingly important to delineate. Creating a Responsible Quantum Future (Ten Holter et al., 2021), based on research in academia, industry and policymaking, proposed a dedicated hub for responsible innovation in quantum computing, seeing it as ever more crucial to deepen the conversation between the QC development community, and wider society. Only by addressing challenges in the industry, policy, and social dialogue, can the forward-thinking aspects of responsible innovation be turned into concrete action. This is necessary in order to ensure that society experiences not only the benefits of advanced QC research, but that principles of good governance, transparency, and other aspects of responsible development are translated from the research environment into the commercial sector.
ResQCCom focuses on three key challenges:
- Governance in technology transfer. At present, governance structures or ‘responsible’ approaches are not translated from the university research environment into the commercial world. Public confidence in quantum computing requires good governance, and citizens rightly expect that fledgling companies spinning out of university labs will be required to comply with industry standards, regulation etc – however such standards and regulation do not yet exist in quantum computing, placing a heavy burden on founders to ensure their work considers societal impacts.
- Communication in policymaking: Policy around quantum computing is often bound up with perceptions of quantum technologies as matters of national strategic capability. There are concerns in the international quantum computing community that attempting to align development along ‘national’ lines is premature, unnecessary, and likely to hinder overall progress. At the same time, there may be insufficient recognition that quantum computing is an ‘enabling’ technology that should be of interest to multiple areas of government.
- Public engagement: Although the 2017 Public Dialogue in Quantum Computing was extremely valuable, it has not been followed up, despite the findings that the public were interested in QC and invested in its development. Societal attitudes to, and familiarity with, quantum computing have therefore not been examined at scale for over five years, during which time quantum computing has developed far faster than anticipated.
ResQCCom will create publicly available, comprehensible explanations of the possible impacts of quantum computing including data visualisations, infographics, and an animated film for non-specialist audiences. ResQCCom will also work to connect up international researchers focused on the societal impact of quantum computing in order to share best practice, argue collectively for global RI approaches, and exchange developments in their respective countries.
The project is funded by the Quantum Computing and Simulation (QCS) Hub and supported by EY.