November 30, 2023

Quantum Potential

The Expert Panel on the Responsible Adoption of Quantum Technologies


Quantum technologies offer opportunities to harness the properties of quantum mechanics for a breadth of applications, many of them novel. Though many quantum technologies are several years away from reaching market, it is believed that they have the potential to revolutionize many industries as they reach widespread commercial availability. Domestic industries will need to adopt these technologies if they wish to remain globally competitive, as will governments hoping to ensure national and economic security, public safety, and the integrity of critical infrastructure. To date, Canada has made noteworthy investments in the research and development of quantum technologies but has focused less on mechanisms to stimulate their diffusion and adoption.

Canada has a number of potential strategies for stimulating the adoption of quantum technologies. They include public-private cooperation mechanisms, such as public-private partnerships and advisory boards; regulatory oversight that encourages competition and establishes standards for privacy and security; industry-led efforts to provide professional services and establish regional innovation hubs; and policy reforms to expand and diversify a quantum-ready workforce.

The adoption of quantum technologies also carries significant ethical, legal, social, and policy implications. These include potential threats to data security and digital infrastructure, anticompetitive pressures by market-dominant firms, mass surveillance and privacy loss, regulatory uncertainty, inequitable access to technology, and social challenges related to employment and public trust in science. In order to maximize the benefits of quantum technologies while mitigating potential risks, responsible approaches to adoption should use state-sanctioned and self-regulating measures – including quantum impact assessments, soft-law mechanisms, and consultations with stakeholders – to anticipate the effects of technological change.

Quantum Potential explores the commercialization potential of quantum technologies, articulates Canada’s position within the global quantum value chain, and examines those conditions and policy levers that might promote their responsible adoption.

The sponsor:

National Research Council Canada and Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

The question:

In light of current trends affecting the evolution of quantum technologies, what opportunities and challenges do these present in Canada?

  • What does the current evidence and knowledge suggest regarding promising and leading practices that could be applied to drive and accelerate the adoption of quantum technologies in Canada?
  • What are the enabling conditions to ensure broad access to and market readiness for quantum technologies in Canada?
  • What are the main socio-economic, regulatory, and ethical challenges related to the adoption of quantum technologies in Canada?
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As they become commercially available, quantum technologies may have applications in a broad range of sectors, creating significant micro- and macro-economic benefits for both individual industries and the Canadian economy. As with other technologies, quantum-enabled solutions also bring risks that could negatively affect the lives of people in Canada. In 2023, Canada published its National Quantum Strategy (NQS), to provide guidance for the development of a national quantum ecosystem. The NQS focuses primarily on the development and production of quantum technologies, and less on processes for encouraging their diffusion and adoption. While there are potential mechanisms to stimulate the adoption of quantum technologies, maximizing their uptake also requires minimizing their attendant ethical, legal, social, and policy challenges.

Report findings

  • Quantum technologies may account for up to 3% of Canada’s GDP by 2045, with quantum computing making the most significant contribution. Scientific research, defence, space, chemistry and materials science, finance, and telecommunications are among the most likely sectors to be early adopters of quantum technologies.
  • While Canadian quantum research is abundant, other countries have begun to catch up and surpass Canada in research output. And while Canada ranks second in the world in total quantum-technology firms, inventors in Canada are applying for intellectual property protection at lower rates. Most firms are clustered around hubs of academic and industry activity, with Atlantic Canada and the territories largely going without comparable industry presence.
  • The capabilities, costs, technological maturity, and availability timelines of quantum technologies are not certain, which has led to key knowledge gaps. Addressing these gaps will help inform government decisions about which types of programming to offer in the future, and assist policy-makers in understanding how Canada can specialize and differentiate itself in the global quantum market.
  • Abuse of market power by established firms may lead to disparities in access to quantum technologies. In Canada’s telecommunications sector, a lack of competition may reduce incentives for companies to leverage quantum technologies in order to achieve competitive advantage.
  • The majority of government support for quantum technologies in Canada has focused on development and production; funding programs tend to support fundamental research and the creation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups, many of which have either not brought products to market or left Canada.
  • The National Quantum Strategy largely focuses on supply-side initiatives with less support for stimulating diffusion and adoption. Jurisdictions leading in the quantum space (e.g., China, United States) employ comprehensive technology adoption strategies for both the public and private sectors.
  • Preparing for the impacts of quantum technologies goes beyond ensuring Canada has the enabling conditions in place to provide broad access and market readiness. It also requires an innovation strategy that prioritizes developing and retaining quantum IP and talent in Canada, to ensure the long-term sustainability of a domestic quantum industry and manufacturing base.
  • Quantum technologies pose a variety of ethical, legal, social, and policy challenges, including the exacerbation of security, privacy, and other risks. The positive impacts generated by quantum technologies can be fully realized if existing and proposed policies anticipate and address these challenges.
  • Quantum technologies can offer efficiency and security benefits, but their uptake in the Canadian private and public sectors is inhibited by shortcomings in the federal procurement process and uncertainties surrounding technology usefulness, maturity, and interoperability.
  • Domestic and foreign trade regulators hold significant discretion over export and import controls governing technology, infrastructure, and materials. Regulatory discretion can have negative implications for Canadian quantum companies and end-users, limiting their access to global markets and supply chains.
  • The adoption of quantum technologies relies on several enabling strategies, including public-private co-operation (e.g., government procurement, public-private partnerships, advisory boards), pro-competition market oversight and regulatory intervention, industry-led initiatives (e.g., professional services, regional hubs, industry consortia), and building a quantum workforce for the adopting sectors.

Expert Panel

The Expert Panel on the Responsible Adoption of Quantum Technologies