“SheQuantum’s exclusive” Interview with Sergio Gago, Managing Partner, Quantum World Association (QWA)

Sergio Gago

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: What is the purpose of Quantum World Association?

Answer from Sergio @QWA: The QWA is a non-profit that tries to bridge the three worlds that relate to the Quantum Computing industry – Academy, Technology and Business. We support Start-ups’ to get funding the right way introducing them to investors and helping them with the pitch, deck, go to market strategy, etc.

We also support demand companies to access the technology innovations in the deep tech area, creating cases and calls for the start-ups in our member group. We aim to be not only the first but also the biggest Start-up association in the world in the area of Quantum Computing.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: How will the developments around quantum computing evolve in 2020-21?

Answer from Sergio @QWA: It is very difficult to make a forecast in the world we live in and in this technology. But if everything moves as we have seen 2020 evolve we believe there will be an explosion in start-ups as well as investors getting more deals in the industry. The more and quieter qubits will allow for more business cases with practical applications and we will start seeing advantages in very specific scenarios. Probably next year will be too early to see a “winning” qubit technology, but we will definitely see great improvements in quantum volume, both by having less noise or better decoherence times and by having more qubits. I also expect more improvements in the hybridization of the classical and quantum worlds.

“In short, my bet is that 2021 will be the year of quantum. But we have to make sure the whole ecosystem grows as a whole”

In short, my bet is that 2021 will be the year of quantum. But we have to make sure the whole ecosystem grows as a whole. The research should keep breaking physical barriers and the business side financing it by developing products that can be sold.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the adoption of Quantum technology?

Answer from Sergio @QWA: The topic itself of course! Quantum Mechanics by itself is strange to many and very difficult to understand. And building the intuition to understand why a quantum computer may be more powerful than a classical one for certain type of problems is not an easy feat. Explaining concepts like superposition, interference or entanglement is quite difficult yet basic to grasp why there is a future in all this (let alone Hilbert spaces!). The good news is that more and more we don’t have to go that deep. Investors need a basic knowledge on why this happens but most importantly, separate the signal from the noise. As it happens in deep tech, a lot of buzz and hype floods the media, however, that does not reflect the investment horizons VCs like.

“The war for talent will be bloody and there are definitely not enough qualified professionals in the field”

So on top of the physical challenges (cosmic rays impacting decoherence times for god’s sake!), the go to market strategies are key and along those a good strategy for training. The war for talent will be bloody and there are definitely not enough qualified professionals in the field.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: What are the practical, life applications of quantum computing?

Answer from Sergio @QWA: I want to be very clear on this one. Today – none. There are of course many papers and models doing simulations and great research that helps us push the industry further. But we still need bigger quantum computers to do get bigger.

Now, the good news is that by the time they come (and this could happen as early as next year) our algorithms and programs will be ready. All the high level frameworks are in place and the communities are created. So you will be able to take the model that plays with a toy model and push it to a real life scenario.

I might be hitting some egos with this one, but at the end of the day we humans are very good at doing things with classical computation. We have great algorithms and a lot of computational power, whether coming from super computers or from cloud based massive clusters. Farms of GPUs (Graphics Processing Units) are today creating massive AI’s that use millions of parameters, supercomputers are “trying” to model complex molecules by simplifying them (and in a very cumbersome way for those developing drugs, for example).

What we can do today is still very small – small molecules, small problems. And even with that, the accuracy vs classical well stablished methods is up for debate. The key will be when we hit > 120 – 150 qubits and we can map much bigger problems that no supercomputer can tackle.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: What is your advice to women looking to start their Quantum journey?

Answer from Sergio @QWA: On top of the purely academic and professional advice, I would just repeat Sheryl Sandberg’s words from Lean In: “Sit at the table”. Push your way and never ever underestimate yourselves.
The infamous study by HP that discovered that most women would apply to a job only when they felt 100% qualified is in a way, part of the problem. Men would apply when we felt 60% ready for the task.

“Men need to give space, and Women have to sit at the table”

I believe this is a big barrier to break, especially in highly technical careers. Men need to give space, and Women have to sit at the table.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: Are there any specific plans / focus by Quantum World Association on developing the ability of women and to let them choose STEM, specifically quantum computing as their choice?

Answer from Sergio @QWA: Yes, and that is why we welcome with arms wide open SheQuantum, to help us push on that direction.

Question from Nithyasri @SheQuantum: How Quantum World Association helps bridge the gap between quantum and businesses?

Answer from Sergio @QWA: The QWA has been working actively in specific industry areas where we found clear use cases for Quantum. One example was Quantum for Quants, where we worked together with experts in the financial industry to really get those problems that nobody could solve until today. Companies would make a call for requests and some experts accepted it and started working on what we call today “Quantum Portfolio Optimization” and so on.

The quantum world is still very tied to academia and it must be, since we are just beginning! But now we are in the right moment to start using that research to create products. And the process of productizing research tends to be different than science (as pharma companies know very well!).

On those lines what we are doing is finding business cases from the market where quantum start-ups can pitch in by means of calls or by scouting within our members and at the same time supporting our start-ups by finding capital. Again, raising private capital from a VC is a completely different process than finding grants for research. This process tends to require different profiles or at least teaching those profiles.

“The value of the QWA stands precisely there; sitting between those two worlds and supporting each side get what they want by speaking the language of each part”

The value of the QWA stands precisely there; sitting between those two worlds and supporting each side get what they want by speaking the language of each part.

About Sergio Gago: Sergio is the Managing Partner @ Quantum World Association (QWA) and also Executive Vice President of Technology @ Naviga, Spain managing the technology operations across the business units of the group. With about 2 decades of global info tech and engineering management experience, Sergio helps bridging the gap between quantum and businesses, globally. Interestingly, Sergio is also an ocean lover, scuba diving instructor, investor and entrepreneur and is one passionate coder!

About Nithyasri Srivathsan: Nithyasri is the founder of SheQuantum, an aspiring quantum computing scientist and author of “Quantum Computing An [Unconventional Beginners’] Book” featured in BookAuthority as one of the 6 Best Quantum Computing eBooks for Beginners, 2020 with a star rating 4.14/5. Nithyasri have strong beliefs pertaining to science and technology and a firm advocate of the interdisciplinary nature of sciences. She is very keen on promoting quantum computing among women and inspire young girls to take up research in this field, globally.

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