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June 28, 2023

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An interview with Daniel Goldsmith, Quantum Computing Technologist, Digital Catapult

After studying Physics at Jesus College, Cambridge, Daniel gained a Masters in Quantum Technology at University College London, working on a project on quantum error correction codes. He has over 25 years’ experience in business, including technical and process architecture, design, test and implementation of IT systems, and finance. He is currently working as a Quantum Computing Technologist at Digital Catapult, the UK authority on advanced digital technology, with a remit of promoting the use of quantum computing. We caught up with him to find out more about his career journey to date, what skills and experiences he thinks are important in a role like his, and advice he’d give to others interested in following a similar path.

You’re a quantum computing technologist at Digital Catapult. Could you tell us a little bit more about what your role involves and what a typical day at work is like for you?

My role is to accelerate the adoption of quantum computing in the UK. I do things like speaking at conferences, organizing workshops and webinars and writing blogs to promote the opportunities the technology presents and raise awareness of the work we are doing. Digital Catapult is involved in a project funded through Innovate UK (and the Commercialising Quantum Technologies Challenge) called the Quantum Data Centre of the Future working alongside partners such as Orca Computing, Riverlane, BP, BT, PQShield and KETS, plus academic partners. Our job is to promote the product and find businesses interested in working with the Quantum Data Centre of the Future. Later this year we are running a programme to give businesses access to the Quantum Data Centre. So, if there’s anyone reading this blog who’s interested, by all means, get in touch with me by email at

It sounds like there is no typical day at work in the office for you, it’s a variety of things.

It is a variety of things, but just to give you a flavour of the sort of things that I work on, I recently attended the Energy Innovation Summit in Glasgow; I’m planning some webinars with industry, and we are organizing a workshop because we think that some of the quantum computing use cases are relevant for the energy sector. And then finally today I hope to read a couple of interesting looking papers from a conference I attended . But every day is different, which is nice.

Digital Catapult is the UK authority on advanced digital technology. Can you explain their mission to us, especially in relation to the emerging quantum technologies?

Digital Catapult’s role is to accelerate the adoption of advanced digital technologies in the UK. And we work with government and the public sector, corporates and industry, startups and scale-ups, academia and other Catapults and investors. We build and operate innovation facilities and labs, run deep tech acceleration and innovation programmes, and we also carry out applied research and development. So not really basic fundamental research, more industrial research. And our technologies include 5G and Open RAN, immersive technologies, AI and machine learning and distributed ledgers, and more recently quantum technology.

In a recent blog piece you wrote, you made reference to the “NISQ era of quantum computing”. Are you able to tell us a bit more about what you meant by that?

At the moment we’re in the era of Noisy Intermediate Scale of Quantum devices. And what that means is that quantum computers haven’t reached their final state yet. And so, there’s a number of limitations – to start with, the qubits are very noisy, which means that they make a lot of errors, and that limits the number of algorithms that can be run because of the depths of circuits, they cannot be very long before errors get introduced. And the other thing is that the computers are quite small, and so as far as I’m aware, the biggest quantum computer at the moment is the IBM Osprey with 433 qubits. But we know that in order to run some useful applications we will need thousands of logical qubits, and so millions of physical qubits. And so, at the moment we’re in the age of seeing what we can do with the existing technology, which isn’t really at the level where we can do everything that we want to do, but at Digital Catapult we still think that there are some algorithms that potentially will be useful in the near future, particularly in optimization using quantum computers and quantum machine learning and quantum simulation of physical systems, for example in quantum chemistry.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

It’s really nice to be able to meet talented people and to work on the cutting edge of technology. And it’s fascinating to see how you can take some very abstract ideas from quantum computing and observe how they become very relevant to real life business problems.

What transferable skills do you think you have gained throughout your career so far and what do you think are the most important skills for working in a role like yours?

Communication is very important. It’s very important to be able to listen to people, not just to hear the words, but to understand what they’re actually saying, what lies behind the words, what their motivations are. And also it’s important to be able to present, but to present empathetically, so to be aware of the level that people are at and tailor a presentation accordingly. So, I would maybe give a very different type of presentation for business users who are at the beginning of their quantum journey to what I might give to peers, you know, in the industry. I think it is also very important for my job to be able to plan and deliver a piece of work from start to finish, and fortunately that is something that I’ve had a lot of experience with. Also, resilience is important and the knowledge that whenever you do any piece of work, you’re going to have setbacks. You are going to need to change your plan and just accept that as part of the work that you do and not get too flustered about it.

What experiences do you think are valuable for someone hoping to work in a role like yours? Did you undertake any training in particular, prior to starting your role, that you think was crucial in helping you to secure it, or any secondments, anything like that?

My background, what I’ve been doing for the last 20 years, is leading teams to design and build IT systems. I am also a chartered accountant and have worked as a financial controller, so I have a background in accounting. And I think because of that, I’ve got quite a unique understanding of implementing technology and also of understanding how business works, and both of those are very important for my role. I needed some additional skills in quantum technology and I was very fortunate to be accepted and to complete an MSc in Quantum Technology at UCL, and that was really, really excellent and it gave me quite a good basic understanding across a wide range of quantum topics. But there were some rungs in the ladder, kind of, missing between myself working as an IT team lead and starting the Masters in Quantum Technology. And these were very important. The first is a professor at UCL called Carla Figueira De Morisson Faria, organized “quantum battles”. I mean, who wouldn’t want to go to something called quantum battles, which is a series of presentations and discussions? And she delivered these online and it was over three days in July last year. So, I approached her and she very kindly let me join in, and that was really good because even though I didn’t understand most of what was being said, I found I did actually understand some of it. And the other thing was I went to a lecture by the Nobel Prize winner Donna Strickland at the Royal Society. I wanted to see what a real working physicist was like. And the third thing that was really important for me was some excellent YouTube videos on quantum mechanics by Leonard Susskind. And I watched them and again, I found them quite approachable. I won’t say I understood everything but because I had those three experiences I found that actually I could listen to a lecture on quantum and understand probably quite a lot of the salient points. That really encouraged me to apply for the MSc in Quantum Technology at UCL.

In this blog we’re trying to highlight some barriers to STEM access, things that hold people back. Could I ask you then about your experience of doing a postgraduate degree in such a specialist – and for many people intimidating – subject? How did you find your experience of doing this postgraduate degree as a mature student? Did you find it difficult to keep on top of all the math, for example? And how did you find you were perceived as an early career researcher essentially, but at the same time a mature student?

In the quantum battles I mentioned earlier, Professor Faria organized the whole thing in an incredibly open and inclusive way, and I didn’t feel like an outsider at all. It gave me the courage to apply for the MSc in the first place, and when I did that, I found that I was treated just like any other student. And with regards to the maths, I was fully aware that it had been many years since I had studied for my first degree, so when I realized that I wanted to start a Masters degree, I basically took six months to get up to speed. I went back and read all my old Mathematics textbooks from university and I read a quantum mechanics textbook, I did edX courses on quantum computing. And I didn’t just read passively. If there were example exercises in the book, I worked on them. And so when I started the Masters, I felt quite confident about completing it. Because of my background in IT, where you work with many black boxes and many things that you don’t necessarily understand, I didn’t panic. If there was something I couldn’t understand, I just thought, well, you know, never mind, there’s this black box. And I don’t understand it now but maybe I will understand it later. Just park that for the moment; and then quite often a bit later on in the course the penny would drop and it would all start to make sense.

This is so interesting, basically what you mean is trust the process. So obviously your focus is on quantum computing. But is there a particular application of quantum computing, or indeed of any other quantum technologies that you’re particularly excited to see the development of in years to come?

For me, this would be quantum optimization. That might be an area where we see the first use cases for quantum computing, where this technology becomes actually cheaper to use than the classical equivalent. But I’m also, even though I’m a quantum computing technologist, very interested in quantum sensors and quantum communications, because for Digital Catapult as a whole, I think that they fit very well into the other work that we’re doing, for example in our Internet of Things and future networks teams.

What are your hopes for the future?

I hope that quantum computing in the UK is a success story. But I also have a personal objective, which is to be involved in a quantum computing project done properly, meaning that there’s an audited business case, and that it gives business benefit. And to do that, I think we will need to consider the integration aspects, how the quantum computer will be integrated into classical computing, and also change management. So, I hope to utilize my background in implementing IT projects to do something successful in quantum.

I’m so glad you said this, because, there is so much hype, and rightly, around quantum computing. It is very easy for people to forget about the fact that it’s not going to replace completely our IT infrastructure.

Exactly. Just because quantum computing is a different paradigm from classical computing, that doesn’t mean we should forget all the lessons that we’ve learned from our classical computing projects.

What would you say to young people who are considering pursuing a career in STEM, particularly in a role like yours?

I would say go for it, why not? Technology changes the world for the better. Obviously, there are caveats on that, we need to manage how we use certain technologies very wisely, but I personally found that working in this area, solving problems and building a solution that people then go on and use, extremely satisfying. And I would say to young people, take advice and speak to your teachers, speak to your advisors, speak to your parents, look at YouTube – I know from my own experience there’s lots of really good stuff there – and go to seminars, go to lectures and really understand what’s going on. And don’t be put off by setbacks, there’s no such thing as a perfect project, there’s always going to be bumps on the road. There’s going to be things you don’t understand and maybe in a certain exam, your grades will be disappointing. But don’t worry about that. I wouldn’t say it doesn’t matter, but we expect to have challenges and setbacks. And the final thing from my own experience is that people are very welcoming. I’ve been very fortunate to work in extremely diverse teams and what I found is that in technology people integrate together, work well together and solve problems together.

To find out more about Digital Catapult’s work on Quantum Computing, visit

Digital Catapult have now launched a Quantum Technology Access Programme (QTAP), which is part of their Quantum Data Centre of the Future project, aiming to embed a quantum computer within a classical data centre to explore real world access to a quantum computer. QTAP is a 20-week innovation programme that aims to engage organisations, raising awareness of the technology and exploring potential quantum computing use cases; providing them with access to the technology and expertise. The programme offers industries the opportunity to bridge the gap between quantum computing’s complex concepts and practical industry applications. To find out more and apply, visit

Applications close at 23:59 on Friday 11 August