Edinburgh Innovations has helped a consortium led by Rigetti UK win a major funding award to develop the UK’s first commercial quantum computer.
EI worked closely with the Bayes Centre and the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh to help deliver the successful application to the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s Commercialising Quantum Technologies challenge. Industry and government funding for the project amounts to £10 million.
The three-year programme, led by Rigetti UK in collaboration with Oxford Instruments Nanotechnology Tools, Standard Chartered Bank, Phasecraft and the University of Edinburgh, will build and operate the first quantum computer in the UK, make it available to partners and customers over the cloud, and pursue practical applications in machine learning, materials simulation and finance.
Testing hardware and software
Edinburgh researchers, led by Professor Elham Kashefi in the School of Informatics, will develop new ways of testing quantum hardware and verifying the performance of quantum programs, and will work with Standard Chartered Bank to advance quantum machine learning applications for finance.
Rigetti UK, a subsidiary of US-based Rigetti Computing, which was founded by former IBM researcher Chad Rigetti, will build the superconducting quantum computer in a Proteox dilution refrigerator provided by Oxford Instruments.
London-based Phasecraft will use its deep knowledge of quantum algorithms and high-efficiency quantum software to develop applications in materials design, energy and pharmaceuticals.
The project was announced in London by Science minister Amanda Sollway, who revealed that the Rigetti machine would be based in Abingdon, near Oxford, and described it as a key part of the government’s plan to attract the top talent and world-leading companies to the UK. She also announced the launch of the National Quantum Computing Centre.
“Our ambition is to be the world’s first quantum-ready economy, which could provide UK businesses and industries with billions of pounds worth of opportunities.
“Therefore, I am delighted that companies across the country will have access to our first commercial quantum computer, to be based in Abingdon.”
– Amanda Solloway MP, UK Science Minister.
Qubits: both on and off
Unlike the ‘bits’ of classical computers, which are either ones or zeros, quantum bits, or qubits, can be in both states at the same time, creating the potential to perform millions of calculations instantly.
“Quantum machines today are able to run basic programs, but they’re not yet at the level of performance or scale for commercially relevant problems.
“To unlock the flywheel of economic value requires a full-stack co-design effort, with both academic and private institutions.”
– Chad Rigetti, founder and CEO of Rigetti Computing.
In addition to delivering a practical quantum computer in the UK, a key goal of the initiative is to further develop the country’s quantum computing talent, infrastructure and national supply chain, and to advance the high-performance computing industry.
The University of Edinburgh is home to EPCC, which runs ARCHER, the UK’s largest supercomputing facility, and the UK Research Data Facility.
“The UK is investing in quantum technologies not only to create society-changing products and services but also to grow talent and expertise, create new jobs and turn outstanding science into economic prosperity.”
– Roger McKinlay, Challenge Director for Quantum Technologies at UK Research and Innovation.
Photograph: IBM Research