Sector News

The next big thing? Quantum computing’s potential impact on chemicals

November 29, 2019
Chemical Value Chain

Over the past several years, quantum computing has been the subject of a lot of hype. Work underway in the field at tech giants such as IBM and Google has been extensively reported, and this interest has been mirrored by investments in the quantum-computing field by players from a broad array of industries, including the chemical industry.

We have been following these developments, and our assessment is that quantum computing could potentially be a game changer for chemical companies.

The chemical industry has been a relatively late adopter of the successive waves of digital innovation and practices moving across business and society. To date, such a stance has not put it at a disadvantage and may in fact have helped it avoid mistakes made by early movers. The chemical industry was a latecomer to enterprise resource planning, but companies did not suffer as the productivity gains from it benefitted all players rather than give any one of them a competitive advantage. The e-commerce wave of the early 2000s proved to be, in effect, largely irrelevant to the industry. Clearly, the implementation of artificial intelligence–based approaches will help the industry to increase productivity significantly across its operations and business activities, but the jury is still out on whether AI will have an impact on the industry beyond that.

Quantum computing, however, may be in a different league. That is because its capabilities could make it possible to significantly improve our understanding of systems governed by quantum mechanics, such as molecular structure and chemical reactions and processes—all at the core of the business of the chemical industry. Players that are able to harness the potential of quantum computing could make better products at lower cost in less time. In this article, we explain what underpins this thesis and how chemical companies should position themselves.

> Read the full article on the McKinsey website

By Florian Budde and Daniel Volz

Source: McKinsey

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