I often get cross about what seems to me, anyway, to be pointless innovation. Those pregnancy tests that say the words ‘Pregnant’ or ‘Not Pregnant’ instead of using the standard two lines: what a waste of digital tech that will go straight to landfill, for no discernible benefit. Or yet another flavoured water drink, stuffed with either sugar or aspartame (name your poison – I’ll go for good honest sugar every time). Can’t drink plain water? What are you, five years old? (Actually I’m maligning children unfairly, many of them are far more sensible about what they drink than us grown-ups.)
But this means it was heartening to sit in an (admittedly roasting hot) room last Friday and listen to nine presentations from people using Quantum Technology to build real businesses based on real benefits. Full disclosure: I know very little about Quantum Technology and was a bit nervous that I’d be all at sea, so what struck me straight away was how well each presenter outlined what their innovation meant in terms of tangible benefits. This is never an easy thing to do, particularly if you are immersed in specialist knowledge day in, day out: what do you mean, you don’t know what a qubit is?
The afternoon in question was the Quantum Technology Enterprise Centre‘s annual showcase, where entrepreneurs going through the Centre’s one-year programme put their businesses on display: for many, for the first time. Not only did it demonstrate the amazing new technologies and thinking happening right here in Bristol, but also the huge value that incubators and accelerator schemes provide in helping fledgling businesses get off the ground. Each entrepreneur was mentored and coached and helped on their way, and it showed in the quality of the presentations.
From the opening talk about making artificial diamonds (for drill bits for example) at far higher purity and faster than previously possible, to the company using microfluidics and sophisticated testing to create a simple, fast and effective test for bovine mastitis and thereby curb the overuse of antibiotics, to the anti-tampering system for physical assets that uses radio waves to tell you if someone has actually touched the item itself, each talk was clear and absolutely fascinating. Two were about cybersecurity and the potential that quantum computing offers to hackers (frankly, a bit terrifying) and another used light instead of electrons to increase the speed of standard AI neural networks. Some of the subjects that came up sounded a bit like magic, it has to be said: did you know you can send digital messages without actually sending anything at all?
The whole afternoon was a hugely refreshing antidote to some of the uninteresting non-innovation out there, and as ever when I hear about new businesses, particularly ones using amazing tech, I came away wanting to tell everyone about them. So here I am, telling you. Keep your eyes on these people – they’re doing amazing things.
Also published on Medium.