Skip to main content
Research report by HRI researchers for “Hitachi Souken” Journal
Hitachi Research Institute
3rd Research Department
The economic and social environments have undergone rapid changes in recent years, leading to increased business uncertainty. Factors such as escalating global competition, geopolitical risks, and regulatory shifts in various countries can present risks to companies. Addressing such uncertainties has become an exceptionally vital challenge for the survival of enterprises. However, companies cannot achieve sustainable growth simply by responding to uncertainty. Achieving sustainable growth requires anticipating long-term shifts in lifestyles and disruptive technological advancements to formulate strategies for launching new businesses. Backcasting is an effective method for this.
Backcasting is a methodology that involves setting a future vision or goal and working backward to calculate the steps and actions necessary to achieve it. By envisioning the future and contemplating what must be done to bring that future to fruition, it becomes possible to formulate concrete strategies and action plans. Hitachi Research Institute (HRI) has leveraged this backcasting method to develop long-term business and technology strategies. An example of this is our research on creating new businesses related to quantum computers, which will be discussed in this article.
A quantum computer is a specialized computing system that harnesses the power of qubits to process information. This technology has garnered significant attention due to its potential to deliver groundbreaking computational capabilities. One of the distinctive features of qubits lies in their ability to exist in superposition states of 0 and 1, leveraging the principles of quantum mechanics. This unique property allows quantum computers to achieve parallelism, enabling the simultaneous execution of multiple computations with various constraints, setting them apart from classical computers. In classical computing, as the number of variables increases, the computational complexity grows exponentially. In contrast, quantum computers are known for their ability to solve complex problems with minimal computational effort.
Some reports have highlighted the use of quantum-inspired annealing techniques in optimizing taxi dispatch management, involving tasks such as creating intricate dispatch plans and driver shift schedules. However, what is used here is not a quantum computer, but a technique called quantum-inspired annealing, which reproduces superposition states on a classical computer. Genuine quantum computers, known as gate-based quantum computers, are still in the developmental phase, with full-scale commercial deployment expected post-2030.
IBM and RIKEN have introduced gate-based quantum computers at the research level, collaborating with universities and private enterprises to explore various applications. Notably, quantum computers hold the promise of revolutionizing multiple fields, including optimizing portfolios of diverse financial products in the finance sector and advancing the development of polymeric drugs and new materials in pharmaceutical and materials sector.
However, the technical characteristics and potential applications of quantum computers still harbor significant uncertainties, leaving room for the emergence of new business opportunities. Consequently, companies that choose to wait until quantum computers are fully operational may miss out on these prospects. To address this, the Hitachi Group, with the support of HRI and under the leadership of the Center for Exploratory Research of the R&D Group of Hitachi, Ltd, has joined Subcommittee on Quantum Wave and Quantum Probability Theory Applications , a part of the Quantum Strategic industry Alliance for Revolution (Q-STAR). Beginning in October 2022, we have embarked on a collaborative journey with multiple enterprises to explore the future utilization of quantum computers through a process known as backcasting."
Subcommittee on Quantum Wave and Quantum Probability Theory Applications consists of more than 10 member companies spanning various sectors, including financial institutions, manufacturing, and IT. Members from these diverse companies face the challenge of making high-level future projections and examining business proposals and technical issues. To address these complexities, HRI proposed a structured approach divided into three phases: (1) A selection of discussion themes, (2) sharing future visions among members, and (3) conducting workshops. Consequently, the subcommittee has progressed through these stages, and the following summarizes the discussions at each stage, with a particular focus on HRI's contributions.
Firstly, in the (1) selection of discussion themes, the subcommittee chose to concentrate on two areas where the interests of companies from different sectors align: "climate change" and "healthcare." However, merely selecting broad fields doesn't allow for in-depth discussions. To facilitate meaningful discourse, the subcommittee established specific themes: a " +2°C Society" for climate change, and a "120-Year-Life Society" for healthcare. This numerical framework has enhanced the quality of discussions among members.
In addressing (2) the sharing of future visions among members, HRI undertook an extensive information-gathering process. This included reviewing literature, reports, and expert interviews related to the two themes, all with the goal of cultivating a shared understanding of the year 2050 among subcommittee members. Under the theme of the "+2°C Society," discussions ranged from strategies to mitigate climate change through technologies like electric vehicles to plans for adaptation if climate change remains uncontrollable. In the context of the "120-Year-Life Society," discussions not only spanned topics like regenerative medicine and personalized healthcare to extend human life span but also explored how to best utilize leisure time in an extended life span.
Subsequently, after collating information and conducting study sessions, HRI facilitated (3) workshops to develop business model proposals and corresponding roadmaps. For the "+2°C Society," the envisioned service that predicts daily abnormal weather patterns arising from climate change, such as lightning, hail, and whirlwind prompts the exploration of quantum computer simulations. Similarly, for the "120-Year-Life Society," which will require infrastructures like robots and flying cars, personalized fitness programs, and drug information services, quantum computers are proposed to manage the extensive path calculations and life log data to support these infrastructures and services.
In this research, we have successfully harnessed the potential of an emerging technology—quantum computing—to generate ideas about potential businesses by 2050. Looking ahead, in order to build businesses that leverage quantum computers, we recognize the need to develop highly specific and groundbreaking business models that are truly one-of-a-kind.
As a think tank, HRI has outlined a vision for the year 2050 based on statistical data and insights gathered through consultations with experts. To further enhance this vision and incorporate more concrete, disruptive changes, we are considering the integration of future forecasts that appeal to our senses and creativity.
Additionally, for our future initiatives, we are exploring collaborative efforts with individuals possessing expertise beyond HRI's traditional domains, including science artists and designers. Through dialogue and workshops with these individuals, we aim to co-create a vivid vision of the future. By embracing these innovative approaches, we are committed to refining our depiction of the 2050 landscape and enhancing the quality of our strategic planning through the process of backcasting.
Hitachi Research Institute
Senior Manager, 3rd Research Department
He is engaged in research on the utilization of IoT data and the creation of new businesses in the fields of finance and manufacturing.
He joined the company in 2007 and has been in his current position since 2013 after engaging in research on macroeconomics and other related fields.
His recent research interests include DX and GX strategies in the manufacturing and healthcare sectors.