Top UK Quantum Computing Experts Depart For Silicon Valley ‘To Access Funding’

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Relative lack of available capital and expertise in Europe drives well-known names in quantum photonics to seek backing elsewhere

A team of well-known British quantum computing experts has moved to Silicon Valley to found a start-up in the field due to the lack of available funding in the UK or Europe.

One of the British founders of start-up PsiQ said they felt a “moral responsibility” to bring the technology into being, and that it was necessary to be in Silicon Valley to do so, the Financial Times reported.

The report comes shortly after London Tech Week, where prime minister Theresa May pledged £150m to help develop commercial quantum computing.

They couldn’t access the capital in Europe so moved to the Valley,” said Hermann Hauser, co-founder of UK chip designer ARM, an early investor in PsiQ.

Quantum cryptography Shutterstock © R.T. WohlstadterPsiQ

The start-up has so far received funding from Playground Global, a venture firm launched by Android founder Andy Rubin.

PsiQ was co-founded by Jeremy O’Brien, who was previously a professor of physics and electrical engineering at Stanford University and directed the Centre for Quantum Photonics at the UK’s University of Bristol, and Terry Rudolph, a professor at Imperial College London.

Several PhD graduates of the two British labs reportedly joined the start-up’s staff of 50 at its base near Stanford.

PsiQ is working on building a photon-based quantum computer, in contrast to the electron-based techniques championed by the likes of Google and IBM.

Expertise

O’Brien said his team had succeeded in creating a two-qubit gate, one of the most basic components of a quantum computer, and reportedly has the ambition of creating a commercial quantum computer with 1 million qubits within about five years.

O’Brien said the team felt it was necessary to set up shop in Silicon Valley in part to have access to expertise in fields such as semiconductors and photonics.

“Having had zero ambition to be entrepreneurs, start a company or move to Silicon Valley, we did all of those things because we felt a moral responsibility to bring this technology to bear,” he told the FT.

He said quantum computers, which could operate far more quickly than today’s systems by utilising quantum effects, were a “necessary tool” for the future.

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