University of Sussex signs up to a quantum future
By: Anna Ford
Last updated: Friday, 6 November 2020
The University of Sussex has joined the quantum race by making Universal Quantum its latest spin-out company signing. The innovative computer tech company, spearheaded by quantum computing experts and Sussex scientists, Professor Winfried Hensinger and Dr Sebastian Weidt, is intent on building the world’s first large-scale quantum computer.
Having already attracted £3.6 million in commercial investment funding from key players in the tech industry in a hotly contested seed-funding campaign, Universal Quantum is an exciting new addition to the University spin-out portfolio and puts Sussex firmly on the quantum technology map.
This week saw the partnership - originally announced in June this year - become official as Professor Hensinger and Professor Keith Jones, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Sussex, signed the contracts between the University and Universal Quantum. It was overseen by Dr Sue Baxter, Director, Innovation & Business Partnerships, and the Universal Quantum CEO, Dr Sebastian Weidt.
“Building practical quantum computers has been described as one of the holy grails of modern science. We are now setting out to make these machines a reality. In my role as chairman of full stack quantum computing company Universal Quantum, I am happy to announce a very close partnership with the University of Sussex’s Ion Quantum Technology Group that will enable the company and the research group to work hand-in-hand to tackle this important challenge.
“While the company will focus on addressing particular engineering challenges that require a level of investment not available to a university research group, the research group will work on some of the underpinning science capable of simplifying many of the relevant engineering tasks.
“The Sussex Centre for Quantum Technologies is one of the leading academic centres for the development of practical quantum technologies with a fantastic record of industry collaboration and this new partnership will further strengthen its record of creating transformational products with the potential to change the way we live and work”
"From the world's first large-scale quantum computer blueprint to winning a place on the prestigious European Quantum Technology Flagship initiative, Professor Winfried Hensinger and Dr Sebastian Weidt have consistently pushed the boundaries in quantum science since they started at the University.
"Universal Quantum is exactly the type of company that we're excited to back at Sussex; it is ground-breaking, has the potential to solve real-world problems and perfectly marries academia with commercial enterprise.
"Not only is Universal Quantum a hugely exciting premise for the University, it's an asset to the Brighton area, further cementing the region's status as a hub for technological innovation. It was quite a momentous occasion to sign the contracts establishing Universal Quantum as a Sussex spin-out company - I can't wait to see what they do next."
How Universal Quantum is setting out to revolutionise the quantum computing industry:
Professor Hensinger and Dr Weidt have developed a radical new approach to building a quantum computer. While some companies have created small quantum machines, Universal Quantum believes that only its technology has a realistic opportunity of being scaled up in a reasonable timescale into machines large enough to unleash the huge potential of quantum computing.
Key to Universal Quantum’s appeal are some fundamental differences in its approach to building a large-scale quantum computer compared to the rest of the field. Competing approaches may require billions of laser beams for calculations, operate at extremely cold temperatures marginally above absolute zero (-273C), which can prohibit scaling up to many quantum bits (qubits), and complex engineering to connect individual quantum computing modules through optical fibre links.
Universal Quantum, however, has developed technology based on trapped ions (charged atoms) to carry out calculations using well-established microwave technology, such as that used in mobile phones, removing the need for a prohibitive number of laser beams. It substantially reduces the necessary cooling requirements, allowing to operate at a much easier to obtain temperature of (-200C) which is critical in making quantum computers far more practical and capable of operating millions of qubits. It has also developed a unique modular approach based on fast electric-field links connecting individual modules, enabling the company to scale-up to practical quantum computers that are able to process millions of qubits.