UK business investment in quantum computing is expected to triple over the next five years, according to the CBI and Accenture Tech Tracker survey.

The Confederation of British Industry’s annual report quizzed 160 UK businesses of different sizes from various sectors.

It found that 32% of businesses plan to invest in quantum computing over the next five years, compared with just 11% who already invest in the technology.

Quantum computing draws from very different scientific concepts compared to classical computing. Where traditional computers store information in a series of 0s and 1s – binary – quantum computers are able to store information as 1s, 0s or both.

This means that quantum computers will be able to perform calculations in parallel, drastically reducing the time taken to complete advanced mathematical problems.

While great strides have been made, such as Google’s recent claim of ‘quantum supremacy’, fully-fledged, error-free commercial quantum computers are still considered to be years away. Today’s quantum computers largely exist in research centres belonging to the likes of IBM, Google and Microsoft. As such, the focus of respondents (26%) is to conduct research into the area.

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By GlobalData

Over the summer former prime minister Theresa May said the UK government would invest £153m into quantum computing.

Felicity Burch, CBI director of digital and innovation, said:

“AI, blockchain and quantum computing are all next on the investment horizon. These technologies will be used not only to improve customer experience and reduce costs, but open up new frontiers of innovation, from drug discoveries to drone deliveries.

“As we move from research to reality, investment in quantum computing is set to leap threefold, and could make possible experiments that are currently too costly and impractical.”

“Greater investment doesn’t always equate to greater success”

According to the survey, areas receiving the most investment right now are cloud technology, cybersecurity and customer relationship management technology.

Investment in blockchain and distributed ledger technologies is predicted to double from 16% to 35% over the next five years.

Artificial intelligence (AI) currently receives investment from 48% of businesses, with a further 32% planning to invest in AI across the same five year period. A third of respondents said they have already applied AI to their business operations.

“The rate of investment in emerging technologies is set to accelerate even further over the coming years as technologies such as AI and blockchain start to become more mainstream,” said Zahra Bahrololoumi, senior managing director and lead for Accenture Technology UK & Ireland.

“Quantum computing is a little further off, however, as we can see from the survey, UK businesses are getting excited about its potential and the investment demand is there.

“But greater investment doesn’t always equate to greater success. Tech adoption for tech’s sake often yields limited results or value. To make the most of their investment, businesses need to leverage technology, talent and be aligned with business objectives and outcomes. By adopting this approach, they can build an agile system to support the new tech that it needs to thrive not just now but also in the future.”

Growing competitive advantage was the most common reason given for investing in these technologies.

Read more: The quantum resistance: Safety in the age of quantum computing