Startup Using Project ARM to Give European Quantum a Fighting Chance | Sieved

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There’s a lot of ground between humanity and a working quantum computer, and experts fear Europe could be left behind as the US and China pour billions into the technology.

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But a startup from the small German city of Ulm believes it can help smaller players with less capital compete against the bigwigs at Google and IBM by tackling a major technical challenge in building a useful quantum computer.

QC Design, which is now coming out of stealth mode, is building technology to help quantum hardware companies quickly follow a process known as error correction: the task of making multiple qubits (the quantum equivalent of a bit of a information unit in classical computing) to increase the power of these machines.

Fault tolerance

Companies like Paris-based PASQAL, UK-based Quantum Motion, and Finland’s IQM are all building their own approaches to quantum computers, looking to increase the number of qubits in their systems.

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But increasing the number of qubits isn’t the only challenge. To get started solving complex problems like finding new drugs or useful materials, builders of quantum computers also need to create something called logic qubits.

In simple terms, a logical qubit is a combination of hundreds of qubits working together to facilitate complex quantum computations. This is difficult to achieve due to the very delicate nature of qubits, which generally need to be cooled to extremely low temperatures to keep them stable, making them expensive and difficult to operate.

This is where error correction comes into play, as researchers build systems that counteract natural defects caused by qubits (a goal in quantum computing known as fault tolerance). But there is a huge talent shortage in this field and Europe is far behind in the race, according to QC Design founder Ish Dhand.

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American companies have been here first, and many of the best error-correction researchers from Europe and other parts of the world work with these large North American companies, he says.

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If you look at companies that have blueprints and roadmaps for fault tolerance, they’re predominantly North American companies. Even with the biggest companies in Europe having really good physical qubits, the roadmaps for fault tolerance are not there yet.

License to correct errors

QC Design hopes it can level the playing field for smaller companies that can’t hire the right kind of talent, by licensing them the technology they need to help them scale their logic qubits.

This will be a mix of hardware architecture and software design, and Dhand tells Sifted there are already around 50 quantum computer companies globally that could benefit from QC Designs’ architecture licenses.

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The company hasn’t signed up any customers yet, but says it is in initial discussions with some quantum hardware builders.

The founder likens his company to an early version of British chip company ARM, which licenses IP for its chip architecture rather than manufacturing the chips itself.

It’s just like ARM licenses design the laptop I’m talking about is a chip designed by ARM but ARM doesn’t make any chips of their own. It’s the designs we license, Dhand says.

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Comparisons with ARM are, of course, a little premature. QC Design was founded in 2021 and employs 10 people. But the company won pre-seed backing from deeptech investors Vsquared, Quantonation and Salvia last year and could provide a major piece of the puzzle for companies looking to keep pace with better-funded players in quantum computing.

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