Ian Walmsley celebrates the UK’s undoubted success in the field of quantum computing (“The race in quantum computing is not a zero-sum game”, August 21). His comments might usefully be qualified by an appreciation of the realpolitik of scientific capitalism.
The fact is that there are now several major corporations in the US and Asia with market values in the range of $500bn-$1tn and with hundreds of billions in deployable cash resource.
As illustrated by Alphabet’s acquisition of the UK’s DeepMind, these and others can simply buy any promising start-up as an option on future success. With that goes the subjugation of the target company’s intellectual property to the rules of the acquiring company’s legal regime — and also power over corporate policies ranging from employment law to taxation.
The UK’s burgeoning ecosystem of start-ups in the field of quantum computing and many others (for example artificial intelligence and fusion science) may simply act as a glorified shopping mall for much bigger international companies, with the myriad consequences in all the areas indicated above.
The Brexit catastrophe, no-deal or not, will remove the UK from one feasible response to these issues: pan-EU initiatives of a scale that would challenge even the biggest of global behemoths. With a government devoid of an appreciation of these issues, and mired in the swamp of a constitutional crisis, the UK is arguably now at its most vulnerable, even before Halloween.
Dr James E Dodd
The Witness Corporation,
London SW1, UK
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