Quantum National Strategies, a Significant Factor

Interviewee: Petra Soderling
Head of Government and Consortium Relations at the Quantum Strategy Institute
Interviewer: Haya Shehab
Associate at BLG




[Haya] Welcome, everyone, and thank you so much for joining us today. I’m Haya Shehab and I’m a lawyer and Patent Agent with Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, a full service law firm with offices across Canada. I’m based out of the Intellectual Property Group and BLG’s Toronto office. I’m also an author with Dead Cat Live Cat, a quantum computing focused collaboration of IP lawyers from Zuber, Lawler in the US, Marks and Clerk in the UK, Schindlers in South Africa, and of course BLG here in Canada. Today, I have the pleasure of having Petra Soderling join me. Petra is the head of Government and Consortium Relations at the Quantum Strategies and Institute in Colorado. She is also the Senior Advisor for Digital Technologies at Business Finland, the Finnish government innovation funding arm on digital technologies, including AI, quantum computing, cybersecurity, smart mobility and new space economy. Petra is actually joining us today from France. Welcome Petra, it’s great to have you here.

[Petra] Thank you so much.

[Haya] Better, I’d like you to start by telling us a little bit more about your role with the quantum strategies Institute and maybe a little bit of what about what the Quantum Strategies Institute is, and your role the Finnish government and how these two roles intersect?

[Petra] Yeah, thanks. Thanks so much. And thanks for inviting me, thanks for the opportunity. So, so two things the quantum strategy Institute is, is an international think tank, it was founded last year by Brian Lenahan, and some like-minded colleagues and people who care about the quantum industry. And the premise really is that Quantum Strategy Institute and I’m gonna keep saying QSI from now on. So QSI advocates for end users, and those are the companies who eventually will benefit most, from quantum technologies, for them, to be awake, to be aware, understand what their options are, and to be able to make educated decisions on whether they want to invest in or adopt quantum technologies in their current and future businesses. It’s been expanding rapidly, I was so honored to be invited as the Head of the Government and Consortium Relations. And I think, probably will need to ask Brian, but I think it was because of my work that I had done with the Finnish government that I was extended this invite. So that’s QSI and then Finland, I’m finished American. I’ve lived in the US and worked for 12 years on the private sector. But about four years ago, I got a call from my native Finnish government asking me if I want to work for them, you know, for these digital technologies that you read the long list. And they were super cool, deep technologies. And I said, Yeah, absolutely. Sounds like a great idea. And I did start to work on the 5G, autonomous driving technologies, space, etc. But in 2020, Finland made the decision to invest in their own superconducting quantum computer. And I’m like, What is this? I have no idea what I sounds very cool. I need to investigate what this quantum thing is all about. And I started looking into it. And I got so excited about the possibilities that quantum can do for nations, for regions for companies, for individuals, that I’ve just been absorbed in quantum ever since. And for Finland in this role. I’ve been making collaboration, partnerships with different US states, and Finland, the Finnish government, and then between individual companies and universities within these two regions.

[Haya] Wow, you’ve got a lot on your plate. So you have you have the Finnish government, you have the US. I’m curious as to your thoughts on international borders will play any role, excuse me, on how or where quantum computing technologies are going to be commercialized?

[Petra] Yeah, that’s an interesting question. I mean, yes. And no. Quantum industry as an industry, it’s, you know, it’s in its early stages. So whenever you have a situation like this, like back in the telecommunications industry, when we were creating the first smartphones for mobile phones that we’re able to send just not just text messages, but video and other multimedia, you really have to look at it as a global industry. And you have to have global organizations, standardization, legal tariffs, tolls, all kinds of policies that are global for these technologies to work across borders. At the same time when you do have deep technologies like wanton nations will want to make sure that they have an advantage for their citizens and taxpayers. So it’s yes, yes and no.

[Haya] So you mentioned standardization. And I, I gather that comes from your background, you had 20 years with Nokia. And you worked in some key aspects of the standardization of 3G. Do you think standardization organizations will be set up to provide interoperability of different technologies and implementations in the quantum computing space?

[Petra] They already are? Yeah, absolutely. And it’s like, I’m glad you brought this up. Because I don’t I might be really wrong. But I view as that the telecommunication standards that we had 20 years ago, in the late 1990s, and the early 2000s, when you had to create telecommunications networks, you had to create mobile phones, you have to create content, you have to create apps that all work seamlessly across borders across technologies. So in the very early days, we did have different standards, we had CDMA, CDMA 2000, we had a TDMA standard, we had GSM standard. And for a while, they all lived in their own vertical silos, happily, because a lot of companies were making money within those buckets. But at some point, they did start to merge. And now, you know, today we have a 5G Telecom standard that’s global and universal, and everyone’s working on that. And it’s really you, you don’t have too many standards bodies in the world who make this happen. One of the most important ones is in the international telecom union, I think it’s called, which reports the United Nations. And they already looking at quantum technologies, how we could eventually harmonize all of these different architectures and platforms that we currently see. It doesn’t mean that everything will merge, like it did with telecommunications, you know, how they say that history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. So we may see some sort of consolidation. But at least the standards bodies are, you know, writing those papers, you know, those, these are the specifications that you can choose to follow, or you or you can choose not to follow.

[Haya] I like that. I like that saying History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. So do you do you think we’re going to run into any problems with standardization when we’re trying to intersect the quantum software quantum standards, along with the classical software and standards that, yes, that exists now?

[Petra] Yeah, yeah, that’s a very complex issue. And I’m not a software architect. So I’m not the right person to, to explain how it will work. But, you know, you basically have two levels of you have the, the lower level software stack that will help quantum computers operate as computers, and error correction and, things like that. And most likely, that we’ll have the standardization aspect come in first, so that we will have functional computers. And you know, people will be able to manufacture or sell them and other people will be able to buy and operate them. But then on the on the upper level where you have more of the application, let’s say you’re an energy company, or you’re a bank, and you want to operate your own application layer there. I don’t know. Another comparison to the mobile world, the operating systems we have today is iOS and Google Android, only two. But in the earlier days, we had, you know, many more. So it’s hard to say what will happen? And but it’s definitely I can say it, it’s difficult. People are working on it.

[Haya] They start with a lot and then convergent to two again.

[Petra] Yeah. And you know, you have this is being taken very seriously. You have high level endorsements. If you think like President Biden just issued two executive orders. On quantum and, when a president of a country issues an executive order. That’s a big deal. And he’s two orders were first of all, the Advisory Committee for the National Quantum Initiative to be reporting directly to the White House. That’s a pretty big deal. And the second executive order was for NIST to start to look into standards in post quantum crypto, and key distribution. So I think it will happen it’s going to be accelerating as you know, as more time goes by, but yeah, hard.

[Haya] Awesome. Um, As an IP lawyer and a Patent Agent, I’m interested in the patenting essential technologies, and how that’s going to come into effect with all this new quantum computing. developments happening. Do you have any thoughts on that?

[Petra] Yeah. Yeah, I have a pitch book license. And I go and spy on the different patterns that different quantum companies have. And different companies have very different strategies on patenting. Because, as an IP lawyer, you know, patents can serve many purposes, you can, if you’re a startup, you can choose to patent your intellectual property, to raise capital, it’s a sign for the investors that you know, you know you’re doing, you have something unique, that’s patentable. And you may or may not license that out to make money with those patents. You can also as well choose not to file those patents, just create products and sell your products in the market. Because filing a patent, you have to do it internationally in this business, it costs money, and then defending if somebody violates your IP, you have to defend yourself. It’s expensive. So not everyone wants to patent and that’s, that’s fine. But to your point on the essential patents, if you are a serious player, I don’t know why you don’t wouldn’t want to do that. Because if you file an essential patent in a standard, you’re basically laying out your technology as the de facto technology of the industry, which means you are in the driver’s seat of any future road mapping of your entire industry. And that’s a very powerful position to be in. Or if your patent portfolio isn’t too wide, at least you’ll have some patents in the standards, which will be a revenue stream for you going forward. I think it’s a very important thing. And it’s happening already now.

[Haya] Just on just to build on that. Do you have any thoughts on what will be the first kind of successful commercial application of quantum computing?

[Petra] I don’t know. I just read all the same McKinsey reports. Is everyone else? chemic, chemical bio energy, financial, maybe finance, maybe Pharma?

[Haya] What are you most excited about?

[Petra] I’m excited about telecommunications. But that might not be the first one.

[Haya] Do you in your work with the government? Do you know what sort of key government relations issues you expect quantum companies to get faced with?

[Petra] Yeah, talent. Talent is the number one problem everyone has. And companies are looking everywhere to solve that challenge. Governments are in a position to fund universities that create homegrown new talent for our industries in our countries. And the other one is immigration. So you if you’ve run a quantum company, you want your government to have an immigration policy that allows you to hire people from other countries. So that so that talent is important. The other one is just the general operating environment. We talk about export controls a lot. But there are other things like tariffs, how transparent your government requires for you to be how you look at privacy issues. And just general public policy. Issues funding. Of course, the government is a big funder, and in most regions, directly and indirectly, so you will have in the US Open calls by government organizations, and they will buy goods and services from quantum companies. And then something that I’m very fond of is national strategies. Not everyone gets excited about national strategies. But having a quantum national strategy for your country is a guidance. It’s a sign from your government, to your companies that this is the direction where we’re taking this country. And these are the steps even if it’s not a roadmap, per se, but it gives confidence for companies that we can invest in this country and we can invest in this technology.

[Haya] Are there any countries you think are doing that really well? Right now?

[Petra] Yes, yes. I think they’re probably the same countries that put a lot of public money into, into quantum so I mean, the numbers vary. China obviously puts most money into quantum and they are very strategic in their operations. But you know, it’s a very strange country in many, many ways. Germany is very strategic. I don’t know if the all these countries have their own strategies, but they do Germany, I think has allocated 2 billion Euros for, yes, very, very. That’s a big sum of money. And then you as Japan, obviously India, and then EU in general is being very open and direct about making quantum their strategic advantage.

[Haya] That’s great. It’s great that all these countries are in Canada, of course, Canada, of course. Thank you. Okay, so we’ve gone from the big government and that a lot of money. What about startups? Startups in the quantum computing space? Do you have any advice or anything you would you would tell folks in the startup community to be aware of or keep in mind as they’re moving forward? Yeah. How to retain talent.

[Petra] Thanks for the additionally, I’ve found it to startups myself, and I’ve been in many teams and advisory many startups. And the last thing I want to hear when I’m a founder is some person in a random webinar telling me all this is what you should be doing. But obviously, any smart founder will think about those strategies. When do you want to monetize? Is it do you need short term revenue? Or can you wait for bigger revenue? Longer term? Do you want to take in outside money or not? Just these basic quantum is not unique in in a sense, although everyone in the quantum industry, of course, thinks it’s very unique. But I’ve been looking at the Gartner technology hype cycle the hype curve for over 20 years. And quantum to me, even though it is, you know, groundbreaking. It’s still one of the dots on the Gartner Hype curve. So the hype goes up, and the hype goes up comes down, and then it gradually becomes business as usual. And what is the time horizon of that? You know, different numbers are out there. But as a startup founder, just make your strategy and get some smart advisors.

[Haya] Awesome. Okay. Well, I also wanted to give you a chance to maybe talk a little bit about what you’ve been working on. Any, any projects you’ve been working on, kind of let us know. Yeah, time to pitch.

[Petra] Thank you. I didn’t want to podcast on if you’re into governments and funding and innovation. I invite guests to talk about deep technologies, different technologies, but also people from economic development agencies from different regions and how they look at innovation. And podcast is called Deep Pockets. Deep Pockets. Governments are unique as funders because they have deeper pockets than anyone else. There isn’t a VC in the world who could have invested in the internet, or nuclear energy or the space, race or quantum. So we need governments to get these big new industries off the ground. So private companies can start making money. So the podcast is called deep pockets. And I’m also writing a book on the same topic. So the book is going to be called Economies, Industries and New Prosperity, the Policymakers Guide to Innovation, it will be a guide book for politicians on how to look at innovation where to where to invest, how to invest and what to expect, realistically. And it’s coming out this year. And you can find more about that at PetraSoderling.com

[Haya] Thank you, Petra. That is wonderful. Well, those are all my questions. I really appreciate you hanging out with us today. And I hope everyone who’s viewing will check out Petro soderling.com. And I look forward to listening to your podcast.

[Petra] Thank you. Thanks so much. Haya.

Petra Soderling - Guest

Head of Government and Consortium Relations at the Quantum Strategy Institute

Petra Soderling is a Senior Economic Development Advisor, specializing in innovation. She has worked with a number of countries, states and municipalities creating roadmaps towards prosperity by investing in deep technologies. Her focus is on creating startup cultures and innovation led ecosystems specifically around quantum technologies, AI/ML, 5G, IoT, cybersecurity, autonomous vehicles, metaverse, and the new space industry. Ms. Soderling has won a number of innovation awards, is a popular speaker and offers her consulting services currently in the United States and Europe.

Haya Shehab - Host

Associate at BLG

Haya is a lawyer and Canadian patent agent practicing in our Intellectual Property Group at our Toronto Office. Haya’s practice centres on protection of global patent portfolios and commercialization of intellectual property rights.

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