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4 sectors being disrupted by Canada’s emerging quantum technology start-ups

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Canada’s emerging quantum technologies sector is one of the most exciting investment opportunities for our new $200-million Deep Tech Venture Fund.

Quantum technologies encompass a wide range of ground-breaking optical and electronic devices that use the physics of atomic and sub-atomic particles. Companies developing these technologies are rapidly making huge strides in fields as diverse as medical imaging, cybersecurity and supercomputing.

Quantum technologies have the potential to disrupt entire industries and revolutionize many aspects of life on the planet.

The opportunities quantum technologies will provide are clear and a variety of actors are mobilizing to take advantage. The Canadian government, for instance, is currently building out a quantum strategy to help support the growth of the industry across the country.

By supporting promising Canadian quantum businesses and encouraging the industry ecosystem, we aim to accelerate the commercialization of new applications and help make Canada a world leader in this domain.

There are many types of quantum technologies, each with multiple commercial applications in a variety of industries. Here is an overview of the leading technologies, their related commercial applications and the most recent estimate of the value of their market opportunity.

1. Imaging

Quantum imaging is one of the most developed fields of quantum information science and technology. It’s positioned to disrupt incumbent industries with annual revenues of over $63 billion.

Quantum imaging falls into two broad categories—quantum illumination and 3D imaging.

  • Quantum illumination refers to the ability to image an object with very few photons, even when there is a lot of background “noise.”

Applications

      • Medical/diagnostic imaging in the healthcare and pharmaceuticals industries.
      • Light detection and ranging (LiDAR), a remote sensing method for measuring distance and speed.
      • Thermal imaging in oil and gas, mining, civil engineering and public safety.
  • 3D imaging uses pulsed illumination to time photons travelling from source to object, allowing for precise depth measurements.

Applications

      • Industrial applications such as reverse parts engineering, CAD model and part comparison, failure analysis, dimensional analysis, wall thickness analysis and part to part comparison.

2. Sensing and measuring

Quantum sensing and measuring technologies have multiple applications in major Canadian industries, including oil and gas, mining and civil engineering.

    • Enhanced interferometry is a method for making precise measurements of gravity, and magnetic and electric fields.

Applications

          • More precise and less environmentally invasive underground, seismic and gravitational surveys.
          • Quantum compasses for improved navigation of large vehicles such as ships.
          • Quantum magnetometers provide improved detection of cancer, heart disease and other diseases.
      • Atomic clocks—Quantum mechanics allows for the most accurate time and frequency standards.

Applications

          • Measuring financial transactions, improving GPS accuracy and telecommunications standards.

3. Communications and cybersecurity

Quantum applications will be critical to ensuring the security of sensitive information in an era of large-scale system breaches.

      • Quantum cryptography has the potential to make hacking nearly impossible. There are two promising systems: quantum key distribution (QKD) and post-quantum cryptography (PQC).

        In theory, QKD can distribute keys (the means for encrypting and decrypting confidential communications) in a manner that can’t be broken, regardless of technological advances. PQC uses quantum algorithms that are thought to be secure against attacks, even by quantum computers.

Applications

          • Data and communications security is of vital importance to public and private organizations, including financial institutions, government agencies and healthcare providers.

4. Computing

Quantum computing presents the greatest opportunity of all the quantum technologies. Quantum computers will be able to solve complex problems that today’s supercomputers are unable to solve. Honeywell estimates quantum computing will become a $1 trillion industry.

      • Quantum algorithms are used to harness the computational power of quantum computers.

Applications

          • Algorithms are employed in solving complex problems such as accessing secure data, searching databases, streamlining traffic flows and managing financial portfolios to maximize returns at the lowest possible risk level.
      • Quantum simulations can be used for operations that are too complicated or costly to do in any other way. One of the most frequent applications has been the simulation of quantum behaviours for identification of new chemical structures.

Applications

          • There are countless potential applications including improved material structures for conductivity, developing new drugs and identifying improved nuclear medicines.

The quantum industry is advancing quickly

Quantum technologies are moving quickly from the research and experimentation stages to commercial applications that will make important advances possible in many different spheres and generate billions of dollars of wealth.

Natural resources, civil engineering and financial institutions will see the greatest near-term benefits from these applications.

Figure 1: Timeframe for quantum technology applications by industry

Growing Canada’s deep tech ecosystem

At BDC Capital, we believe the time is right to invest, nurture and grow Canada’s quantum technologies industry, along with other deep tech sectors in our country, including photonics, electronics and foundational artificial intelligence.

We are working with private sector and public partners to ensure promising businesses have the resources they need to become international champions. Contact us if you’d like to partner with us to build a stronger deep tech ecosystem.

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