Funding boost for UK quantum computing

A UK company intent on building the world’s first large-scale quantum computer has received £3.6m in seed-funding.

quantum computer

Founded by Professor Winfried Hensinger and Dr Sebastian Weidt in 2018, Universal Quantum, a Sussex University spin-out, looks set to ‘tackle the grand global issues of our time’.

How to make quantum computers useful

Today’s computers consists of billions of transistors (bits), but quantum computers encode information in quantum bits (qubits). A bit has a single binary value (0 or 1), but qubits can be 0 and 1 simultaneously. The ability for individual qubits to occupy multiple states underlies the potential of quantum computers.

In 2017 the team published an industrial blueprint to construct a large-scale quantum computing machine in Science Advances.

The work featured a new innovation that allows quantum bits to be transmitted between individual quantum computing modules to realise a fully modular large-scale machine with significant computational power.

Fibre optic connections had been proposed to connect individual computer modules, but Universal Quantum have introduced connections created by electric fields that allow ions to be transported from one module to another. According to Sussex University, this new approach allows 100,000 times faster connection speeds between individual quantum computing modules compared to current fibre link technology.

Another drawback in current quantum computing is the requirement to operate at extremely cold temperatures marginally above absolute zero. Universal Quantum’s trapped ions carry out calculations using microwave technology, which reduces cooling requirements, allowing a quantum computer to operate at -200C.

Prof Hensinger said that creating practical quantum computers is a major engineering challenge, but Universal Quantum’s technology and approach do not rely on making major physics breakthroughs.

A spokesperson for Propagator VC said the team’s approach, utilising microwave radiation gates, has the potential to overcome many of the current obstacles to building a truly scalable quantum computer.

The UK government’s science minister, Amanda Solloway announced the investment at a quantum technology industry event held on June 15, 2020. Quantum Tech Digital Week saw over £70m invested into 38 UK projects addressing global and industrial challenges including the development of batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage systems.