Quantum computing has made huge strides in recent years – ranging from theoretical concept to multiple test environments, to help organizations prepare for a time when quantum computers and their unparalleled processing power are becoming a scaled reality. Now based in the UK Oxford Quantum Circuits announces £38m ($47m) in funding to fuel the growth of its own contribution to the space – a proprietary 3D processor architecture it calls coaxmon, plus quantum computing-as-a-service that will run on it. OQC says this Series A is the largest yet for a UK-based quantum computing startup.
“We work at a pace and our systems are optimised. We will continue to scale up and reduce the error rates,” Ilana Wisby, the founder of OQC, said in an interview. “Our vision is seamless quantum access.”
Lansdowne Partners and The University of Tokyo Edge Capital Partners (UTEC), a deep tech fund from Japan, are jointly leading the round, which also includes participation from British Patient Capital, Oxford Science Enterprises (OSE) and Oxford Investment Consultants (OIC). OSE and OIC previously led a £2.2 million seed round to the startup, which started as an Oxford University spinout and the work done there by quantum physicist (and OQC founder) Dr. Peter Leek.
The plan is to use the funding to hire more talent (it now has 60 employees), continue to improve the accessibility of quantum computing for developers who want to work with it, and continue to build out the computing infrastructure that is today. based on an 8 qubit machine. And as you might guess from the investor list, it will also use some of the funds to expand into Asia-Pacific, and specifically Japan, to attract potential clients there in the financial services industry and beyond.
“Quantum computing promises to be the next frontier of innovation, and OQC, with its state-of-the-art Coaxmon technology, aims to integrate the forefront of modern physics into our everyday lives,” said Lenny Chin, a director at UTEC, in a statement. “UTEC is honored to be part of OQC’s mission to make quantum technology accessible to all and will support OQC’s expansion into Asia-Pacific through collaborations with academia, including the University of Tokyo, and partnerships with leading financial and engineering companies in Japan.”
Wisby described this as a first close, meaning more could be added to Series A in the coming months.
OQC actually started raising this Series A before the pandemic, early 2020; but it chose to suspend that process and go ahead grants instead to build out the company in its earlier stages, Wisby said.
That took OQC quite a bit, from a 1-qubit to a 2-qubit, then a 4-qubit and now an 8-qubit machine.
The startup is also already providing services to a variety of clients operating through OQC’s private cloud or via Amazon Braket, AWS’s quantum computing platform that also gives developers access to other quantum-as-a-service providers such as Rigetti, IonQ and D-Wave. (OQC notes that its quantum computer, named Lucy, is the first European quantum provider on Braket – an important detail for companies and quantum researchers based outside of Europe who must comply with data protection laws by keeping data and its processing local: this gives them a local option.)
His clients include: Cambridge Quantumthey are . runs iron bridge cryptographic number generator on OQC’s computer; financial service providers; molecular dynamics researchers; government organizations and large multinational corporations with in-house R&D teams working on systems that can run on quantum machines when they are finally wound up.
“Ultimately” is the operative word here: The real promise of quantum computing is massive computing power, but a quantum computer has yet to be built that can achieve that at scale without producing too many errors.
But it seems that much of the hope these days is centered not on “if” but “when” that hurdle will be overcome. “We’re way behind the theory,” Wisby said.
That has led to a big wave of both big tech players and… IBM† Amazon and Alphabet to participate, but also to number from smaller startups, and companies like Rigetti, IonQ and D-Wave that sit between those two poles. While there are some who choose to build and sell quantum devices, the economics don’t make sense for most potential use cases, so for now the greater efforts around quantum seem to be in the cloud: offering it as an infrastructure-free, use-computing service to need.
While Oxford Quantum Circuits’ 8-qubit computer isn’t the biggest in the field, Wisby said one of the reasons it’s attracting users, and this investment in a tough fundraising environment, is because the platform is better, because it produces fewer errors than others.
“We’re all working on processes on a larger scale,” Wisby said. But, she added, there is something to be said for better quality and fewer errors. “We have low error rates and the funding allows us to realize the next steps.”
Another important addition to the process is the fact that regions and countries are seeking early stage leaders in the field to bolster their respective positions in that next-generation technology, so supporting Oxford Quantum Circuits is seen as part of that strategy. British Patient Capital is a strategic backer in that regard: it is the investment arm of the British Business Bank, a government-owned bank focused on developing businesses and industries in the UK
“Since the launch of the first commercially available quantum computer in the UK, we have continued to be very impressed with both the technical advancements and the future ambitions of OQC,” said Peter Davies, partner and head of developed markets strategy at Lansdowne partners. pronunciation. “We are very excited to invest in this innovative and forward-thinking company.”