German government tasks Sussex spin-out with building a powerful quantum computer in €67M contract
By: Alice Ingall
Last updated: Wednesday, 2 November 2022
Physicists from University of Sussex spin-out company, Universal Quantum have secured a record-breaking investment from the German government to build a truly scalable trapped ion quantum computer within the next four years.
With a landmark investment of €67 million in total from the German government’s Aerospace Center (DLR), Universal Quantum Deutschland GmbH, a subsidiary of Universal Quantum, has been commissioned to bring two world-first tech innovations to Germany: a single-chip quantum computer with a sophisticated electronic quantum computer chip; and a multi-chip quantum computer that will consist of up to 100 quantum bits (qubits). The basis for both machines will be an extremely powerful chip developed for this quantum computer.
Experts believe that quantum computers with millions of qubits will be required to solve some of the most complex problems that benefit society. To achieve this, there are a few challenges: the reliable connection of chips – also called modules – as well as the very low cooling temperatures, amongst other precise and complex engineering requirements. Universal Quantum's unique approach solves both of these issues, allowing modules to be connected like a jigsaw puzzle to scale to high qubit numbers, all while requiring only moderate cooling temperatures.
The cutting-edge quantum computer technology being developed as part of this contract was first cultivated by researchers in the quantum computing laboratory at the University of Sussex and has been further refined by the leading research team at Sussex spin-out, Universal Quantum, whose UK headquarters are in Haywards Heath.
Professor Sasha Roseneil, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sussex said of this record-breaking commission: “An investment of this magnitude from the German government signals the world-leading quality of the quantum technology being developed at Universal Quantum, here in Sussex, and marks the UK as a major player in the international quantum race. It is proof once again of the unique value and ambition of this University of Sussex spin-out company, for which cutting-edge technological enterprise is grounded in rigorous academic research. Quantum computing will be pivotal in helping to solve some of the most pressing global issues. We are very proud that University of Sussex academics are at the forefront of quantum technology globally.”
Until now, there has been limited access to working prototypes for researchers. In building these two computers, Universal Quantum and the DLR will be opening the door to the next step in quantum computing – the development of real-world applications on a scalable quantum computer. The two machines will allow researchers to test new concepts for software development and continue to build on existing skills, that are crucial in today’s global quantum race.
From its inception, Universal Quantum has focused on building scalable quantum computers and Germany now becomes the second government backing this key mission, following a sizeable investment from the UK government. As part of this, Universal Quantum and Rolls Royce have been working on developing a quantum computer that can help to build more fuel-efficient turbines for aviation, thus reducing fuel consumption and emissions.
Dr Sebastian Weidt, CEO and Co-Founder of Universal Quantum and Senior Lecturer in Quantum Technologies at the University of Sussex said: "We’re thrilled that another major government is investing in our stellar team and cutting-edge technology, building on our recent successes with the UK government. This is a huge validation of how unique and promising our technology is and represents a major step forward in our mission to build quantum computers that will help enable people to solve the biggest challenges humanity is facing.”
Prof. Winfried Hensinger, Chief Scientist, Co-Founder and Chairman of Universal Quantum and Professor of Quantum Technologies at the University of Sussex, said: "Our team has worked intensively on the development of our technology. With the DLR contract, we have reached an important milestone and received further recognition of the quality of our technology. Key to our technical concept is the inherent scalability of the quantum computers we are building. Our mission is to solve many fundamental problems of our time - this is the next step along the way."