Although they may not transform information technology as a whole yet, it seems that quantum computers are already detangling nature’s mysteries, according to Wired. The speakers of their ‘Quantum Pulse’ event explained simply the secret of quantum principles, namely superposition, entanglement and interference, notably Strangeworks, which aim at making this disruptive field accessible to everyone. Oxford Quantum Circuits, the European challenger to the most known superconducting qubits developed by Google and IBM, and Riverlane, its Operating System partner, have also introduced more ways to build those logical quantum bits (trapped ion, spin, cold atom or photon) among the UK quantum ecosystem.
A decade ago, I was fascinated by the disruptive potential of the quantum cyber-communication solution developed by SeQureNet; it may have been too early since the startup has failed. Recent online events dedicated to quantum were a great opportunity to catch up with the new European quantum Tech rising stars members of the DeepTech cluster Systematic Paris Region. I have also realised that UK companies are now partnering with the French ICT leaders to develop quantum networks based on the quantum key distribution (QKD) for cryptography. Another promising application is the development of quantum sensors to improve measurements with a new European leader in photonics and quantum technologies.
During this new decade, the tech giants have to compete with startups that are building quantum computing solutions to solve complex simulation and optimisation problems applied to pharmaceuticals, finance or energy. In this way, Pasqal is deploying quantum processors on-demand above 100 qubits and towards the 1000 qubits threshold, which allow testing concrete use cases in partnership with quantum companies and multinational end-users. The European information technology industry is also preparing for a quantum future, building the next generation of cryptography and electronics thanks to collaborative projects and leveraging ESA’s agenda 2025 to deploy quantum communication in space.
In addition to Wired’s content, French speakers can listen to the podcast Decode quantum to learn more about the discoveries of the 3 quantum scientists who have understood the power of entanglement almost 40 years ago. Since their initial experiments, 3 French Nobel laureates have accelerated the second quantum revolution, which may one day create bio-inspired artificial intelligence based on quantum cognition and neuromorphic computing.
Events switched to a virtual experience during this global crisis triggered by the Covid-19, CogX organised in June 2020 from London was no exception. CreaTech Festival gathered forces to bring Creative Industries together with CogX Festival of AI and Emerging Technology that covered 17 other topics from HealthTech to Smart Cities, FinTech to Blockchain, EdTech to Industries 4.0.
CogX Festival supplements CreaTech Festival among the London Tech scene but competes with the Paris-based VivaTech cancelled this year. I mentioned both events at their inception in previous articles about the emergence of CreaTech Hubs and the move from French Tech to Crea Tech. In my view, CogX brought Tech event organisation to another level aiming at designing a Mindful Tech Xperience for a better future society.
In line with my previous articles, I envision CreaTech as a starting point for creativity & innovation to connect different fields instead of predefined creative sectors such as FashionTech or Digital Media. Furthermore, the CogX Festival also raised long view issues related to ethics & society highlighting current trends in AI from fundamental research to cutting edge technologies, or the so-called DeepTech, to foresee different applications for our future of work and education. CognitionX is building a knowledge-sharing platform and has launched a series of virtual weekly events CogXtra to ensure a responsible transition to an AI-driven society for the next 10 years.
The 2nd CogXtra event addressed the question of The Tech We Want that sounds even more important in a world in crisis. The main challenge is to empower citizens, as explained in a fireside chat with Taiwan’s Digital Minister Audrey Tang, who showcased how CivicTech could help to beat the pandemic and fight against misinformation.
Ultimately, we should ensure AI & data works for people and society thanks to independent organisations like Ada Lovelace Institute, the co-curator of this CogXtra. We need to deal with several issues behind the design of global AI superpowers racing to create an Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), listening to Ben Goertzel, who believes in the decentralisation of such global intelligence.
I recommend you to watch the panel “How Autonomy Fosters General Intelligence in Robots” from CogX 2020 to understand ethical issues raised by Sam Williams who challenged Ben Goertzel about the risk of losing control in a decentralised network. In contrast, Ben reminds us of the risk of global powers led by totalitarian regimes controlling an AGI that may happen sooner than we think in his point of view.
There is an increasing number of workshops and online courses dedicated to creativity, new technologies, innovation and design thinking which are crucial knowledge for sustaining the competitive advantages of firms. People who learn those soft skills and new competencies, altogether with creative and knowledge-based workers (artists, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs), are representative of the creative class which is described by Richard Florida as the leading force of growth in the economy. Those creative professionals are essential for the attractiveness of cities that we can call “Creative Technology Cities” or “CreaTech Hubs”.
Major Tech Hubs from all around the world cover almost any tech vertical based on digital and key enabling technologies. San Francisco, well known for web technologies, has moved towards BioTech and CleanTech. Moving over FinTech, CreaTech and DeepTech are tech trends taking off in London. CreaTech is a new core vertical promoted by the British Creative Industries Council which hosted the festival Createch 2017 to highlight sectors like fashion, games, design or media. Keeping in mind the wider range of the creative class, we should define CreaTech as a broader spectrum of Creative and Tech sectors.
CreaTech Hubs are cities at the core of the creative economy, a concept defined by John Howkins to bring together ideas about the creative industries, the cultural industries, creative cities, clusters and the creative class. In this way, CreaTech is a new paradigm that involves creativity, innovation and design at the intersection of technology to transform traditional sectors from RetailTech to Fintech. The digital transformation and smart cities are the factors of this incremental innovation process which, altogether with DeepTech (disruptive innovation based on substantial scientific advances), create innovation spaces.
The StartMeUpHK Festival has showcased the strengths of the city as a start-up hub, namely retail technology, fashion technology, smart city, financial technologies and digital health. This innovation hub takes advantage of the proximity with Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware to manufacture electronics and to develop new technologies. That’s why the Hong Kong/Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park is seen as a relevant scheme to associate the innovation excellence of both cities. This innovation centre should foster Deep Tech such as Artificial Intelligence, robotics or electronics.
The drones leader DJI has just opened a lab HKUST-DJI at the university where the startup was created before moving to Shenzhen. Since Hong Kong startups can benefit from the hardware ecosystem at their doorstep with electronics made in Shenzhen, they should focus on software technologies based on artificial intelligence to program drones, robots, etc. As an example, the Shenzhen-based company Huawei has set up an R&D centre Noah’s Ark Lab in Hong Kong dedicated to artificial intelligence. Other mainland companies may follow this strategy.
Hong Kong gathers leading technologists and scientists through high-level international universities that can transfer disruptive Deep Tech to well-established companies. They should also create startups with the support of entrepreneurship centres and startup platform such as HK X Tech who were mentors at the last Startup Weekend (which I helped organise with the HKUST). Startups accelerators are also great innovation catalysts to support DeepTech development. As an example, the accelerator Zeroth.ai envisions Hong Kong as a leading hub in Asia for Artificial Intelligence.
This article is part of the Hong Kong — Shenzhen Innovation Hub series.