UK quantum computing company Quantum Motion has raised £42 million in an equity round of funding led by Bosch Ventures (RBVC), with Porsche, the UK government’s National Security Strategic Investment Fund (NSSIF) and several additional investors.
For the uninitiated, quantum computing builds on principles borrowed from quantum mechanics, focusing on quantum bits (qubits) rather than atoms, promising to advance what is possible with computers by performing complex calculations in limited time. Use cases may include speeding up new drug discoveries or powering the massive amounts of data processing required for AI applications.
“Quantum computers think about computers in a completely different way today,” James Pals-Dimmock, CEO of Quantum Motion, told TechCrunch. “Problems that would take a supercomputer thousands of years to crack can be solved in minutes with a quantum computer. The first impact will be in materials science-related areas, such as energy materials, chemistry as medicine discovery or optimization – perhaps extending to logistics and transportation.”
In the year Founded in 2017 by Professor John Morton and Simon Benjamin from UCL and the University of Oxford, Quantum Motion aims to create “scalable quantum computers” compatible with established silicon processors, a new quantum computing architecture.
As with conventional computers, heat negatively affects the qubits in quantum computing, meaning that quantum computers must be very cool. Quantum Motion says it has designed integrated circuits that “can generate, transmit and process signals at deep cryogenic temperatures” that operate at a few tenths of a degree above absolute zero.
“Our silicon-based quantum chips are typically a few millimeters thick, and we expect the cooling system needed to make the chip to have the same shape as a standard 19-inch server rack,” said Pales-Dimmock. “Being able to show that our quantum computing system doesn’t need data centers the size of football pitches or CERN-style facilities is one of the motivations behind our location in central London.”
What a leap.
The recent surge in quantum activity comes amid widespread activity in the quantum computing space. Just last month, we saw French startup Pascal raise 100 million euros, Israel’s Quantum Machines closed its Series B round for $70 billion, and Australia’s Quantum Brilliance raised $18 million. Elsewhere in the past year, Finland’s IKM, France’s Alice & Bob, and UK-based Quantum Circus have all raised large amounts of VC cash.
Quantum Motion and its ilk are among the biggest competitors in the tech world, including IBM, which recently unveiled its 433-qubit Osprey quantum computer, and Google got a new quantum computing sibling last year. Just last week, it started raising $500 million in funding. Elsewhere, other tech giants like Microsoft and Intel are also investing heavily in quantum.
So, what can Quantum Motion and its startup brethren bring?
“Compared to the big tech companies, our advantage is that we have a team that’s agile, focused on one goal and can compete with the best in the world,” says Pales-Dimmock. “We have a highly talented team in a variety of fields, including IC (device and control) engineering, quantum theory, hardware and software, and deep relationships with world-leading universities that help us source that talent.
Quantum Motion has previously raised nearly $24 million in equity and large funding, and with the new cash injection, the company says it plans to accelerate development of silicon quantum processors by forging “deeper relationships” with manufacturers. Indeed, the startup’s strategic investors, including Bosch and Porsche, offer some hints about the impact quantum motion could have on industry — quantum computing could change battery technology as we know it, allowing scientists and researchers to simulate batteries to better understand what’s going on. It is done at the molecular level to optimize materials and improve energy density.
But the real possibilities are endless, and it’s hard to imagine how much of a difference quantum computing could make.
“Like computing in the early 1960s, it was hard to predict what computing would lead to, but it revolutionized our society,” said Pales-Dimmock. “It’s only when computers get into the hands of people everywhere that we develop our creativity and push the boundaries of what computers can do. Quantum computing will be the same, we know it will make a difference in areas like drug discovery, battery technology and more, but we won’t know how much it will change until we get there.
It’s important to note that while quantum computing is advancing at breakneck speed, it’s still in its relative infancy, and the fruits of all the R&D labor we’ll see across the board may still be a few years away.
“There are a lot of quantum computing companies today and they’re all in R&D mode,” Pales-Dimmock said. “Investors know it will take time. Indeed, it may be the end of the decade before we have impactful quantum computers. This increase will allow us to strengthen our relationships with manufacturing partners and demonstrate prototypes that can reach millions of qubits.
Quantum Motion’s latest cash injection comes from Octopus Ventures, Oxford Science Enterprises, British Patient Capital, Incafe, Parkwalk Advisors and I.P.