May 23, 2023 Inaugural Quantum Connections Conference encourages sustained quantum excellence in Waterloo and Canada By Elizabeth Kleisath Institute for Quantum Computing "Canada is too small to not have our quantum ecosystem working better together," said Nipun Vats, Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Research Sector, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), during his opening keynote address of the Institute for Quantum Computing’s (IQC) first national networking conference, Quantum Connections , touching on the challenges and future of quantum information in Canada.
Sponsored by IBM Quantum, Xanadu, and Gowling WLG, the inaugural networking conference brought together over 150 quantum professionals from government, industry and academic sectors to foster collaborations and create connections over two days. The conference’s goal was to encourage the thriving quantum ecosystem that Vats, Norbert Lütkenhaus, IQC’s Executive Director, and many other leaders in quantum information envision to ensure Canada sustains our quantum excellence within the growing global landscape.
Quantum Connections attendees critically examined the challenges we face as a country within the landscape of quantum and had proactive conversations considering Canada’s quantum future. Quantum Connections will be held as an annual event and is expected to grow and evolve with the changing landscape of Canadian quantum innovation.
Highlights of this year’s conference included the keynote addresses from Dr. Nipun Vats on May 3, focusing on the challenges of quantum in Canada, and Sonia Sennik on May 4 considering the future of quantum in Canada.
"Canada has been at the forefront of creating and supporting the commercialization of quantum ventures," said Sonia Sennik during their keynote address. Sennik is the Executive Director of Creative Destruction Lab (CDL), a seed-stage program for massively scalable, science-based companies. During the keynote, Sennik discussed CDL’s quantum-stream and its approaches to empowering individuals to move research from labs and into commercialization spaces.
"The expense of building quantum hardware, coupled with the steady improvement of classical computers means that commercial relevance of quantum computing won’t be apparent unless researchers and investors shift their focus from the quantum advantage, to pursue what we call ’the quantum economic advantage’."
Presenters provided a snapshot of the quantum startup landscape, including Dr. Jérôme Bourassa of Qubic, Dr. Vlad Gheorghiu of softwareQ, Dr. Sarah McCarthy of evolutionQ, and Quantized Technologies Inc’s Jordan Smith.
The conference provided ample opportunity for attendees to network and mingle, including at the networking mixer at Lokal Cocktail Lounge in Downtown Kitchener.
The conference’s panel discussions covered a wide range of topics and perspectives including the development of academic training programs and ensuring the current workforce has the skills to engage in quantum advances, enabling quantum technologies to advance to commercialization and industry markets, and ensuring that our national goals and positions within quantum innovation are set and achieved.
Discussions frequently considered the changes and direction that Canada’s National Quantum Strategy (NQS) set out, as panelists looked forward to the future of quantum innovation. The NQS direction was discussed in detail during a fireside chat between Iain Klugman and Dr. Raymond Laflamme, co-chair of the NQS advisory council. Klugman and Laflamme discussed their experience in writing and launching national strategies and how we can advance Canada’s NQS from words on a page into successful actions and results. "A new start is only as good as its execution," said Klugman. "We need to make sure we start thinking of ourselves as a community, and part of a national initiative. The scenarios where we have seen Canada be successful is where we’ve figured out we need to gang up together to take on the world."
"To support innovation, we need an ecosystem. We need an interconnected pathway from the lab to the end user," said Dr. Megan Lee during a panel on quantum talent. Lee and her fellow panelists, Rafal Janik, Dr. Olivia Lanes, and Dr. Pooya Ronagh examined the changes of the quantum industry landscape and considered a variety of different solutions to engage a new generation of qualified personnel.
During the conference’s final panel discussion with BlackBerry Certicom VP Jim Alfred, Dr. Aimee Gunther, Deputy Director of the Internet of Things: Quantum Sensors Challenge Program at the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), and IQC’s Dr. Michele Mosca discussed how Canadian companies are best placed to lead the future of quantum, and how we can ensure that global companies use Canadian quantum technologies for an innovative and hopeful future. "Adopting new innovations is something that we have to work to solve together," said Dr. Aimee Gunther reflecting on Canada’s potential quantum impact. "We need to keep focusing on the future, or else our momentum is going to slow down as everyone else’s ramps up, and it’s going to be critically hard to keep up."
And continuing momentum is exactly what IQC intends to do. With the resounding success of Quantum Connections 2023, IQC is looking forward to hosting next year’s conference and bringing Canada’s quantum community together again.
"Quantum Connections is already shaping up to be the key quantum event in Canada," said Alexandre Choquette, Quantum Lead at IBM Quantum, the conference’s Mainstage Sponsor.
See what our attendees said about Quantum Connections 2023:
"Thank you for organizing this conference! It was a really great opportunity to meet individuals in the field across academia, government, and industry."
"Keep up the amazing work and see you next year! Every detail was taken care of! This event will do nothing but grow and expand."
"This was the most professional conference I ever participated in."
"You did a great job in organizing a good stream of content and an effective environment for conversations and meeting the attendees."
"The event overall was very well designed and delivered smoothly and effectively. The conference content was informative and useful for me particularly because the discussion focused on quantum commercialization potentials and Canada’s strength. The catered food was awesome too - best food and beverages I have ever had at a conference."
Save the date for Quantum Connections 2024 - May 1 to 2. Stay tuned for more details.