OQC sees UK’s largest quantum computing investment at $46m

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By Nick Flaherty

Oxford Quantum Circuits (OQC) has raised £38m ($46m, €47m) in the UK’s largest investment in quantum technology.

This is the first closing of a Series A round, co-led by Lansdowne Partners, one of Europe’s leading investment firms, and The University of Tokyo Edge Capital Partners (UTEC), Japan’s largest deeptech VC fund. British Patient Capital and existing investors Oxford Science Enterprises (OSE) and Oxford Investment Consultants (OIC) also participated.

“We are moving into the growth phase to be Europe’s leading quantum compute company,” said Dr Ilana Wisby, founder and chief executive officer. “Part of the target is Asia Pacific and to that end we have Edge Capital,” she said “We don’t have US investors, but I would not say no. Making sure that as a company we expand across Asia Pacific and Europe is something we are excited about.”

“Right now we have a 8quit processor called Lucy but this fundraising allows us to scale and we have got bigger prototypes iterating internally,” she said. “We will be deploying larger systems at a rapid rate. In the last 16 months this lab has gone from 1 to 8quits and deployed on line and we’ve done all of this for less than £10m.”

Lucy has been added to Amazon’s Bracket cloud quantum computing service, the only such service available in Europe. “Our vision for seamless quantum compute where you just spin up a QPU, we are pure play QCaaS,” she said. “We have existing private contracts and PoCs [proof of concepts] in place and it is very important to build those partnerships early along with the infrastructure for those customers for secure access. That’s why AWS was so important and by opening up Europe as a region we are covered by the European Data Act.”

Quantinuum, the merger of Cambridge Quantum Computers and Honeywell’s quantum computing business, is already using OQC’s 4 qubit system called Sophia for a private cloud service.

The technology is based on superconducting transmon circuits developed at the University of Oxford. “We redesigned those from first principles, we have a complete 3D redesign, so the qubits are coaxial with a Josepheson junction in between. This allows us to put the control and readout either side and that means we can do control in a 3D unit and scale up into larger arrays with incredibly low cross talk and that’s what makes it so special,” she said.

These early non-error corrected quantum system with up to around 100 qubits are part of the noisy intermediate-scale quantum (NISQ) era but the company is looking at commercial systems with millions of qubits for a fault-tolerant, error corrected design. This is why the scalability of the transmon architecture and its Coaxmon interconnect is key, she says.

“What we see is a ratio of 1:1000 for a logical qubit,” said Wisby. “That is absolutely part of our underlying roadmap and in the next five years for sure. This is why we need to get it into customers hands today. We are not afraid of competition, we embrace it, and the Coaxmon will enable us to leapfrog and enter the big league incredibly soon”

“NISQ and fault tolerant are not two separate regions and there are a lot of algorithms that we can run in this hybrid period and we want to make sure we support the ecosystem development with first user advantage so that when we do hit that commercialisation we are primed and ready to go,” she said.  

“We have a strategy of building the core technology and partnering with the best. We do need to build systems and that requires integration,” she said. “We have inhouse bespoke control hardware, FPGA control cards, control software, we do partner within the stack, for example with Oxford Instruments.  Building the technology inhouse gives us flexibility and low latency for connection to the cloud.”

Rather than taking a ‘full stack’ approach in the same way as Quantinuum, Pasqal or IBM, the development of algorithms and applications is an area for partners and customers. “There’s a lot of development still into languages and the industry will consolidate in the next few years but we ae committed to keeping ChASM [a quantum programming language for chemistry] on the roadmap so that if customers write something now it will run then,” she said. “We don’t do algorithm development ourselves but its not something that I would rule out for acquisitions.”

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