BIG Quantum Hackathon

Team Novacene at the BIG Quantum Hackathon

Novacene amongst industry partners in deep tech event

The possibilities of quantum computing are endless. According to a 2021 Forbes article, the technology has the potential to change the world – transforming drug and vaccine development, the financial sector, and even helping countries meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Novacene AI is keeping its finger on the pulse of this ground-breaking technology and was proud to sponsor and submit a challenge to the BIG Quantum Hackathon, which took place at CENTECH in Montreal from June 20-23, 2022.

The event, organized by Quebec Quantic in association with QuantX, was divided into two challenges: a two-day technical challenge, and a two-day business-focused competition.  

During the technical challenge, software engineering students – mentored by quantum experts – were tasked with solving a technical challenge put forth by a company. At the end of the technical challenge, teams pitched their solution to a panel of judges. The four best solutions advanced to the business-focused portion of the Hackathon.

The business-focused challenge brought together MBA students under the guidance of a business mentor to transition the solution from the technical challenge into a viable business. Novacene AI challenged software engineers to apply a quantum computing solution to a text analysis problem. Other companies, including BMW Group, Hydro Quebec and Thales brought challenges related to chemistry, electricity distribution, and cybersecurity.

The technical challenge

Team Novacene included software engineering students Arnaud Brouillet-Gagnon, Simon Gaudet, and Simon Roy. These software engineering students worked under the coaching of Dr. Marco Armenta and Dr. Olivier Landon-Cardinal.

The dataset used for the challenge, published by Natural Resources Canada, was comprised of public comments and ideas submitted by everyday citizens related to the how Canada can ensure prosperity for Canadians while transitioning to a clean and affordable energy future.

The team’s challenge was to apply a quantum computing based-solution to mine ideas from a set of comments – labeling them as “ideas” vs. “comments.”

Team Novacene participants in the BIG Quantum Hackathon

Deep into the challenge

The team discussed different approaches and tested a few prototypes before it settled on a final direction. The team was able to demonstrate two important things: that analyzing text is possible using quantum computing, and that quantum technology is very likely to be a superior technology once it achieves a larger number of qubits (which is a unit of processing power). The team showed that while still in its early stages, quantum computing has the potential to be a highly superior tool like no other technology seen before – with ultra fast processing power and the ability to perform complex calculations in a very short period of time. Their solution also illustrated that quantum computing would be a highly efficient way to sort comments vs. ideas in different scenarios, such as a public consultation.

The students pitched their solution to a panel of expert judges. The evaluation criteria focused on the added value of the solution beyond established approaches, and likelihood of scalability.

Among its competitors, Team Novacene was selected to advance to the business-challenge stage. Congrats team!

The business-focused challenge

The Novacene business team was comprised of Charles-Antoine Bilodeau, Gautam Taneja, and Paul Marsault, under the coaching of Dr. Martin Laforest. The students were tasked with taking the solution from the technical team and develop a pitch to convince the judges that the solution was commercially viable. With an understanding of the technical challenge and solution, the team imagined a product that could be packaged using the technology and created a compelling pitch that showed a realistic path to commercialization.

The pitch was evaluated based on its effectiveness to articulate the problem, the solution and value proposition. The team defined a revenue model, as well as identified customers, the market, and competitors. They delivered the pitch (after rehearsing it only once!) and they did great. Unfortunately, they did not win, but as they said, “we learned quite a bit and met many people so we’re very happy with the experience.”

A sneak peek into the future

This Hackathon gave us a glimpse into the future – not only in terms of the potential that quantum computing can bring to the field of artificial intelligence, but also to the tremendous talent coming out of Canadian universities.

Novacene AI was pleased to provide a challenge for these teams to tackle, and the experience allowed us to collaborate with great minds, as well as explain our clients’ expectations, our challenges, and the opportunities that quantum computing can unlock. As this new talent enters the workforce, or chooses to pursue further training, Canadian start-ups can expect to strengthen their competitiveness and create world-class, high differentiated deep value.