UPDATED 16:26 EST / NOVEMBER 27 2023


Superconducting quantum chip startup OQC raises $100M in fresh funding

OQC, a London-based startup developing superconducting quantum processors, today announced that it has raised $100 million in funding to support its research efforts.

The Series B round was led by Tokyo-based venture capital firm SBI. It also drew contributions from several other backers including two investment firms associated with Oxford University and the University of Tokyo’s Edge Capital fund. According to OQC, the round is the largest-ever Series B investment raised by a U.K.-based quantum computing startup.

OQC, officially Oxford Quantum Circuits Ltd., develops quantum processors based on superconducting qubit technology. Such processors store and process data in the form of electricity much like a traditional chip. The difference is that they are made of superconducting materials, or materials through which electricity can travel without losing any energy.

Electrons usually travel one by one between a circuit’s different sections. In a superconducting circuit, electrons organize themselves into pairs that move at the same speed. These Cooper pairs, as they’re known, have quantum mechanical properties that can be used to carry out computations.

A quantum computer includes not only qubits but also a large number of auxiliary components. Those components are responsible for tasks such as determining which qubit should perform what processing task. Often, engineers implement qubits and their auxiliary modules within the same chip. 

OQC has developed a quantum processor design that decouples qubits from their auxiliary components and moves the latter equipment off the chip. According to the company, its design provides several advantages over competing quantum computer architectures. 

Today’s most advanced quantum processors feature only a few dozen or hundred qubits. The reason is that scaling such chips, or increasing the number of qubits they contain, without decreasing qubits’ reliability has proven to be a major engineering challenge. OQC claims that its design makes it significantly easier to scale quantum processors than competing approaches.

The company says its technology also provides other benefits. OQC is promising less interference between the qubits on a chip, which translates into a lower risk of processing errors. Moreover, its processors are simpler to manufacture in certain other respects than competing systems. 

OQC announced its latest funding round today in conjunction with the debut of its newest quantum processor, the OQC Toshiko (pictured). The chip features 32 qubits, four times more than the company’s previous system. OQC Toshiko, which is currently in private preview, can be deployed together with conventional computing equipment such as Nvidia Corp. processors or accessed via the public cloud.

“By combining OQC Toshiko with the Nvidia GH200 Grace Hopper Superchip through Nvidia CUDA Quantum, a platform for integrated quantum-classical computing, OQC can better empower businesses and researchers to make breakthroughs across industries and in critical scientific domains,” said Tim Costa, Nvidia’s director of high-performance computing and and quantum.

Using its Series B funding, OQC plans to build a new generation of quantum processors more advanced than OQC Toshiko. Those chips are expected to feature several hundred qubits. The company’s goal is to build a processor with so-called quantum advantage, or the ability to carry out calculations too complex for a conventional supercomputer. 

Image: OQC

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