Five companies seeking supremacy

“Nature isn’t classical, damn it, and if you want to do a simulation of nature, you better do quantum mechanics,” said physicist Richard Feynman, one of the forefathers of computer science. quantum, at a conference in 1981. “And damn it, that’s a wonderful problem, because it doesn’t look that easy.”

Forty years later, money is pouring into this “wonderful problem”. Over the past 12 months, around $1.1 billion has been invested in quantum computing start-ups, according to business intelligence provider GlobalData, up 13.5% from the previous year. .

IQM builds task-specific 5-qubit quantum computers for applications in finance and medicine. (Photo courtesy of IQM)

This venture capital funding is critical as quantum computing moves from academic research labs to commercial adoption, says Robert Penman, associate analyst for thematic intelligence at GlobalData.

“The quantum advantage – where a quantum computer can outperform a classical computer in specific tasks – won’t emerge until at least 2030,” he says. “Currently, research is aimed at solving incredibly complex hardware problems.

“Therefore, as the industry is not yet profitable, venture financing is vital for its development.”

Quantum computing start-ups: betting on the future

The quantum computing market is expected to grow from $412 million in 2020 to $8.6 billion in 2027, according to analyst firm IDC. Today’s “limited” offerings will soon be replaced by a new generation of quantum computing platforms, IDC predicts, triggering a “surge in customer demand” around 2027.

To date, the market has been mostly limited to national research labs and supercomputing labs. But commercial adoption is beginning, starting with the tech giants. Companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google and IBM have all partnered with quantum computing start-ups to deliver quantum-based cloud services, or are developing their own machines.

IBM, for example, aims to have built its own quantum computer with 1,000 qubits – the point at which quantum computers are expected to challenge the performance of their classical counterparts – by 2025, while Google plans to have one by 2029.

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Other organizations are dipping their toes in the water. Earlier this year, automaker BMW signed a deal with French start-up Pasqal to use its quantum processors to simulate complex materials. And the UK Ministry of Defense bought the government’s first quantum computer from UK supplier Orca Computing.

However, all of these initiatives are still experimental and there is still a long way to go before quantum machines provide a reliable alternative to classical computers. Companies are investing now to have the infrastructure and capabilities in place when quantum computing takes off, says Raghunath Koduvayur, communications manager at Finnish startup IQM.

As it stands, the market for quantum computing is wide open. “No company can claim to be ahead of quantum because it’s still early days,” says GlobalData’s Penman. “While IBM and Google, along with several start-ups, have had measurable success, it is impossible to predict which company or technology will continue to dominate quantum computing.”

Today’s quantum computing start-ups are therefore betting for the long term that the approach they have chosen could define the next computing paradigm. “A lot of these ideas won’t work,” says Todd Weiss, a quantum computing analyst at Futurum Research.

So the next decade will be a process of weeding out bad ideas. “Quantum will start out as a big funnel in terms of ideas and will converge and consolidate into five or ten serious companies in five to ten years,” he predicts.

The biggest fundraisers for quantum computing start-ups in 2022

To give an overview of the state of quantum computing, Technical monitor identified the biggest funding rounds for quantum computing start-ups so far this year.

The startups that received the top five seed rounds are:

Origin Quantum ($148.2 million) – China

Investors: CITIC Securities Co Ltd; Bank of China Group Investment Limited; China International Capital Corporation (Hong Kong) Limited

China’s Origin Quantum was founded in 2017 by the CAS Key Laboratory of Quantum Information.

In a roadmap released last year, the company said it hoped to achieve 1,024-qubit quantum processors by 2025, which would allow it to solve specialized problems in various industries and develop new areas. industrial.

IQM ($130.6 million) – Finland

Investors: Tencent Holdings Ltd; Bayern Capital GmbH; Santo Venture Capital GmbH; OurCrowd Ltd; Open Ocean SAS; MIG Fund; Maki Venture Oy; Matadero CQED, LLC; IEC Fund; TESI; Vsquared Ventures; Salvia GmbH; WF World Fund Management GmbH; QCI SPV; Tofino and Varma

IQM was founded in 2018 by Aalto University and VTT Technical Research Center of Finland following breakthroughs in qubit reset, readout and thermal management for large-scale quantum processors.

“We are one of the only quantum companies in the world to provide on-premises quantum computers,” said the company’s communications manager, Raghunath Koduvayur. Technical monitor. “[We have a] a four-cubic-meter machine that can be delivered to your home now as a full-stack quantum computer.

IQM aims to have 20-qubit machines available to customers this year and 50-qubit machines next year, Koduvayur said. He is working on a 1,000 qubit machine but has not announced a timeline.

Quantum computing on silicon ($90.6 million) – Australia

Investors: undisclosed

Australian Silicon Quantum Computing was launched in 2017 by the Australian Commonwealth Government and others to commercialize research developed at the Center of Excellence for Quantum Computing and Communication Technologies in Australia.

It is focused on developing a full-stack quantum computer built in silicon and became the first company to develop an atomic-scale fabricated integrated circuit in June this year.

This atomic-scale circuit functions as an analog quantum processor and has previously been used to model the quantum states of a small molecule of organic polyacetylene.

“SQC engineers are now evolving the technology to address more industrially relevant molecules, and as a company we look forward to developing targeted industry partnerships to meet their simulation needs,” said its president Stephen Menzies.

Atom Computing ($60 million) – United States

Investors: Main Engines Laboratory; Third Point Ventures LP; innovation efforts; Prelude Ventures LLC; Venrock Ltd.

California-based Atom Computing was founded in 2018 with the goal of building a “truly scalable” quantum computer from individual atoms.

Its goal is to generate scalable error-free quantum computers and was the first to create a quantum computer made up of nuclear-spin qubits, which some scientists believe will be the easiest way to develop quantum computers for industrial use.

Last year, Atom unveiled a quantum computing system called Phoenix that can hold 100 qubits in an “unusually stable” state, he said. The system uses the nuclear spin state of strontium-87 atoms to represent the zero and one states of the qubit.

Quantum Circuits of Oxford ($46 million) – UK

Investors: The University of Tokyo Edge Capital Partners; British Patient Capital Ltd; Oxford Investment Consultants LLP; Oxford Scientific Enterprises; Lansdowne Partners Limited

Oxford Quantum Circuits was created from the University of Oxford Physics Department in 2017 by Dr Ilana Wisby. It has patented a three-dimensional processor architecture, codenamed “Coaxmon,” which is more scalable than 2D offerings, according to the company.

As the number of qubits increases, “2D circuits require increasingly complex engineering to route control wiring through the chip to the qubit,” the company explains. “This both degrades the quality of the qubits and increases the risk of costly engineering errors.

“Our innovative core technology – the Coaxmon – solves these challenges: it has a three-dimensional architecture that brings key components off-chip for dramatically increased simplicity, flexibility, engineering and – most importantly – scalability.”

Oxford Quantum Circuits offers quantum computing as a service (QCaaS), through commercial and public cloud platforms. Access to his 8-qubit machine, Lucy, is available through Amazon’s Braket quantum cloud platform. The company’s customers include Cambridge Quantum which runs its IronBridge number generator on the machine.

Read more: Quantum Uncertainty: Is Quantum Computing Really Ready for Enterprise Action?

Sherry J. Basler