- British quantum computing startup Universal Quantum has emerged from stealth to announce a £3.6 million seed round.
- The startup wants to build a quantum computer with chips comprising one million qubits. For context, today’s quantum computers have 20 to 50 qubits and the technology is difficult to scale up.
- Others competing in the field include Google and IBM, with quantum computing promising major breakthroughs in climate change, drug discovery, and other scientific fields.
- Read on for an exclusive look at Universal Quantum’s pitch deck.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
British startup Universal Quantum has raised £3.6 million ($4.5 million) in new funding to try and beat IBM and Google to the moonshot of building a functioning quantum computer.
The University of Sussex spinout has emerged from stealth to announce its ambition to build a 1-million qubit quantum computer and test whether the tech might solve some of humanity’s biggest challenges.
Quantum computing is at the very edge of physics and computer science, but the race to build a true super computer is heating up with Palo Alto’s PsiQuantum raising $215 million in April, and Finland’s IQM announcing a €15 million raise on Thursday.
The promise of quantum computing is that it could be considerably more powerful than traditional computing, enabling humanity to solve major challenges around climate change, drug discovery, and areas we haven’t thought of. The trouble is, quantum computers are extremely difficult to run and, depending on who you talk to, none have really managed to outstrip classical computers.
In traditional computing, information is encoded in bits that are only one of two values at any one time, usually represented as 0 or 1, on or off. Quantum computing operates in the realm of quantum mechanics, a mysterious branch of physics that famously no one understands. And it doesn’t rely on bits, but a unit called a qubit which can be in two states simultaneously.
“What quantum computers do is make use of a number of very cool effects you see in the quantum world and one of them, for example, is that something can be in two places at the same time,” said Dr Sebastian Weidt, CEO and cofounder of Universal Quantum, adding: “In a conventional computer, bits are represented as a one or a zero. And because we now live in the quantum world, we can represent ones and zeroes at the same time. That’s where a lot of the computational power comes in.”
Different players working on this technology are taking different approaches to try and exhibit “quantum effects”, Weidt said.
IBM and other firms use superconducting qubits which are fabricated onto a chip, which is then cooled down to absolute zero or minus 273.15 degrees Celsius. That technology literally requires something like a giant refrigerator which is, for obvious reasons, quite difficult to scale up.
Universal Quantum says it has developed tech based on trapped ions. “You use individual charged atoms and you encode information inside of them, so each atom becomes a qubit,” said Weidt, adding that the qubits are in a vacuum system with cool technology and there is no need for giant refrigerators.
Weidt argues this will be easier to scale up to build a true quantum computer. “It’s not enough to be at tens of qubits, and that’s where we’re currently at …. we need to be at the millions of qubits.
“We didn’t care too much about doing stuff with five qubits, 10 qubits to get a great Nature paper,” he added. “We asked ourselves: ‘Okay, what would it take to build a 1-million qubit computer, what’s stopping us right now?'”
Universal Quantum’s new backers include Village Global — a fund that offers connections to Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Other backers include Hoxton Ventures, Propagator VC, Luminous VC, and 7 Percent.
Read Universal Quantum’s (redacted) pitch deck below: