Department of Management Studies

Quantum Computing – from Labs to Markets

Quantum computing is currently transitioning from labs to markets. This Academy of Finland research project explores in real-time how technological designs take shape and compete with each other, how early communities emerge around them, and how this extremely complex domain of science and technology is made understandable to broader audiences.
QC

This research project examines the emergence of quantum computing as an emerging field of science and business from an organization and management theory perspective. Quantum computing is at current undergoing a major shift with technologies and solutions transitioning from mere scientific exploration in labs to tangible business opportunities and to markets offering solutions of applied engineering. As this trend intensifies, a larger set of actors from different social domains comes to engage with quantum computing, including for instance new start-ups and spin-offs that take interest in rising business opportunities, established technology corporations, and governments seeking to stay at the forefront of innovation development. 

Currently, there is great uncertainty about how quantum computing will develop – both in terms of the material forms it may take as well as the timeframe for the development. Moreover, it is unclear to what extent and in what areas in society quantum computing can be applied in future. Quantum computing is also counterintuitive and not understandable to general audiences. Thus, the industry is characterized by extreme open-endedness and an enigmatic nature, with experts having different perceptions on the potential of quantum computing and on the technological trajectories that are worth to follow.

Against these empirical starting points, we explore in this research project in real time how the innovation ecosystem emerges globally around quantum computing, how actors compete in the industry, and how the new market is constructed among diverse players that follow differing technological approaches and designs and have diverging objectives and expectations in the field. We further on study, how quantum computing is communicated to various audiences, such as financers that grant resources to innovation and business development; that is how a complex and uncertain technological field is made understandable and how it is translated to non-experts.

Sub-projects 

We collect a data set consisting of interviews among e.g. scientists, technology companies, public and private financers and policy bodies, participation and observations at events like conferences and workshops and archival data, including industry and policy reports, and news articles and scientific publications. This will create a vast and unique longitudinal qualitative data set on the emerging quantum computing market.

Sub-project 1: Competing technological designs and emerging collaborations

Quantum computing is currently at a stage of pre-market emergence, with different companies and scientists following differing approaches (or “platforms”) for constructing a quantum computer. This sub-project seeks to develop understanding on how actors join a particular approach and how they form new collaborations as they pursue and promote a particular technological path. As such, this longitudinal study casts light on the real-time emergence of technological designs and their development and selection processes as well as community formation in emerging, multi-stakeholder settings. This project acts as a means to get to know the basic technologies and the emerging networks and communities in quantum computing.

Sub-project 2: Narratives and storytelling

Quantum computing is challenging to understand to lay people. Thus, actors in the field face the challenge to communicate the meaning of quantum computing to external stakeholders and explain why it is important to pursue quantum computing. For instance, start-ups need to communicate to financers, why their particular business idea and technological approach is worthy of investment and how they are creating solutions with actual market potential. In this, actors rely on symbolic work and narratives to make quantum computing understandable and more approachable and to relate the new field to issues that the audience is familiar with. This sub-project explores how quantum computing is given sense through narratives in the field, and how such stories are distributed and how they spread among key groups. It traces how metaphors, visualizations, and stories are created to communicate a complex issue.
    
Sub-project 3: Expectations and temporality in market categories

Nascent fields are in a “state of becoming” - with fluid material artefacts and boundaries, key actors entering and exiting the industry and lacking policies and standards that would define the market and its core products and services. At the same time, creating a durable category is important for emerging fields, as it can steer the entire field to a particular direction and urge legitimacy and recognition among actors with key resources. Thus, nascent fields often rely on grand expectations in category construction. These are expectations that are widely shared and commonly accepted; that is shared beliefs of an unrealized potential that commits actors to engaging and experimenting with a new technology. In this sub-project we study, how different actors construct expectations related to quantum computing and how expectations and other temporal constructs, such as articulated time-frames of scientific break-through and rhythms of innovation development, serve in constructing a market category.
 

“Anyone who can contemplate quantum mechanics without getting dizzy hasn’t properly understood it.”

Niels Bohr

Who are we?

Portrait of Aalto University Associate Professor Nina Granqvist

Prof. Nina Granqvist has engaged with this field for well over a decade, with her research on nanotechnology published in the best management journals and awarded with key prizes in her field. She is one of the key researchers in this research area within management and organization studies, and her areas of expertise include institutional theory, market categories, narratives, and temporality.

Heli Nissilä

Heli Nissilä's  expertise lies in science and technology studies research as well as institutional and temporal approaches to field emergence. She has gathered vast experience with qualitative data analysis, from her PhD project tracing both retrospective and real-time emergence of solar industry in Finland. She has also worked in multiple research projects related to renewable energy together with the key professors. Heli has engaged as a speaker at industry events. Her research has been published in many high impact journals related to industry emergence and technology and innovation policy and in edited volumes.

Amber Geurts

Amber Geurts' expertise lies in innovation theories. Amber is a researcher in Technology & Innovation at TNO in the Hague, and a visiting researcher at the School of Business/School of Science at Aalto University, Finland. Her research focuses on the business and societal implications of emerging technologies, such as digitization, big data, Artificial Intelligence, and quantum technologies. Her postdoctoral research project explored the emergence of data-driven materials innovation, using ethnographic studies of big data and AI in materials science.

Photo by Sebastian Schlecht. (2020).

Oona Hilkamo is a PhD student with a background in engineering. Oona is doing her dissertation on quantum computing, focusing on narratives and story-telling in the emerging field and on visual-sensemaking practices. 

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