Startup Oxford Quantum Circuits (OQC) has launched the UK’s first home-produced Quantum Computing as-a-Service (QCaaS) platform, making it the first quantum computer built in the UK with proprietary technology accessible to businesses and strategic partners.
OQC’s patented Coaxmon superconducting qubit architecture uses 3D architecture, which the company says will make quantum computing much easier to scale than other architectures for new business applications.
The move is part of a trend within the industry to put quantum processing into the cloud within a range of enterprise applications. Google, AWS, Microsoft and others all have a presence in open space in 2016 when IBM provided an early quantum processor as an on-demand service.
Spinning from Oxford University in 2017, OQC believes that its private cloud approach and focus on industries such as financial services and cybersecurity gives it real business potential, backed by the diverse and growing network of UK quantitative start-ups in applications, hardware, sensors . , and more.
Under the now defunct Industrial Strategy and its replacement from the COVID era, the Growth Plan, quantum computing is a strategic priority for the UK, along with related technologies such as quantum applications, sensors, communications and timing.
Dr. Ilana Wisby is the CEO of OQC. She believes the UK has the potential to establish a genuine leadership position in this rapidly emerging field, despite the ability of a number of US giants to throw dollars to solve problems.
Throwing money at things doesn’t always win. With quantum computing it will help, of course, but it will not determine who is the winner. The key word is leadership. And with anything new, it’s a huge opportunity to lead. The UK has led with the pioneering Industrial Strategic Challenge Fund, and a pioneering government-led strategy, and we can now lead in creation and gain in this sector.
There are probably 19, 20 or more companies in the UK that are concentrating on this kind of high-tech quantum technology, whether it’s software or hardware. At OQC, we’ve just figured out earlier, we’re more mature as a company, and with our strategy and the core technology, we’ve been able to scale and deliver this product to the market sooner and more efficiently, so we’re the first platform.
We see quantum companies attracted to the UK as an epicenter for the industry. We are not afraid of competition. What we have from universities is incredible innovation that will help us ensure that we can efficiently scale and deliver high-performance quantum computers at a significantly lower cost.
Dr. Wisby has a quantum physical PhD himself, but has seen a more exciting path in entrepreneurship than in academia – demonstrated by OQC launching its Series A financial round last week on the back of the cloud announcement. She explains:
I was frustrated with the academic environment, and the effects I could make of it, and found my love, entrepreneurship, through an internship while I was writing my thesis. I worked with two start-ups very closely linked to deep technology and was able to see how I could take technology created and invented in a university environment, but help get it out and have a real impact.
Little impact of Brexit
Given the growing trend to turn companies from UK universities – in areas such as quantum technology, AI and robotics – are entrepreneurship and academia still sitting in separate worlds? Or are they increasingly intertwined?
Yes, that’s right [they are intertwined]. I sit on an advisory committee that is all about helping, especially with diversity, to make sure we are promoting entrepreneurship. I do think it’s a trend backed by credible funds that are capable of recognizing and helping high potential, and realizing that.
Science, in essence, is so important to the UK ecosystem. And I think people will look more at science and as an opportunity and get excited about it, to endure it and make an impact with it.
Has Brexit made that task difficult, as the path of many start-ups to new markets has been across Europe, while research, cooperation and funding opportunities have also come from the continent? She says:
We haven’t seen any impact so far. I know there has been some concern on the European side with Horizon, but that has been resolved. We have money and Britain’s strategy for quantum is still innovative. There is still good funding and support for this space coming from the government, and we are incredibly grateful for that.
The results certainly seem to speak for themselves. She says:
We now see a lot more end-market interest. We have several projects with corporate clients that I can’t talk about yet, but there’s a lot of interest – in cybersecurity, finance, pharmaceuticals and other trending areas. Pre-thinking businesses ensure that they get a first-mover advantage and are actively engaged in quantum as a disruptive technology.
It is important to be able to work with customers, to understand their needs, so that we can make sure that the quantum computer as a service we deliver is built to their specifications. We’re open, but it’s in Beta, so it’s still a collaborative activity.
We’re particularly interested in talking to enterprise users who have issues where we can make an impact, so we can start doing things that weren’t possible before, and that will one day lead to really high-impact applications.
Great news for Britain, and a sign that the country’s entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, in the hands of a young, ambitious, and, increasingly, female group of innovators.
• The first company to access OQC’s cloud platform – for its proof of quantum cybersecurity IronBridge – will be a 2014 Cambridge Cambridge Quantum Computing, another spin-off of the UK university system. In June, the company merged with Honeywell Quantum Solutions to create an integrated supplier that would remain in Cambridge, backed by US industry contacts.