Skills Shortage Creating a ‘Quantum Bottleneck’
(Guardian) There is now what analysts call a “quantum bottleneck”. Owing to the fast growth of the industry, not enough quantum engineers are being trained in the UK – or globally – to meet expected demand. This skills shortage has been identified as a crucial challenge and will, if unaddressed, threaten Britain’s position as one of the world’s top centres for quantum technologies. A major skills shortage in quantum computing could harm the UK economy unless universities recruit more students.
This quantum bottleneck is only going to grow more acute. Data is scarce, but on one day in June 2016 there were just 35 vacancies worldwide for commercial quantum companies advertised. By December, that figure had leapt to 283.
In the UK, estimates indicate that the industry will need another 150–200 quantum engineers over the next 18 months. In contrast, Bristol University’s centre for doctoral training produces about 10 qualified engineers each year.
The second problem, according to Warburton, is competition with the US. “Anyone who graduates with a PhD in quantum technologies in this country is well sought after in the USA.” The risk of lucrative US companies poaching UK talent is considerable. “How can we compete with Google or D-Wave if it does get into an arms race?” says Palles-Dimmock. “They can chuck $300,000-$400,000 at people to make sure they have the engineers they want.”