Focus on quantum computing start-ups launched by X's alumni
The quantum computer, a project that was only a dream in the 1990s, has become the focus of a global competition involving governments, technology giants and promising start-ups.
Exploiting the counterintuitive properties of quantum physics to build a new kind of computer, the promise of the quantum computer is to outperform any non-quantum machine ever built to perform calculations used in physics, cryptography or economics and finance. One measure of a quantum computer's capacity is its number of qubits. A Chinese company has built a 66qubits computer. IBM hopes to reach 433 qubits in 2022 and 1,000 in 2023.
One year after the presentation in January 2021 by the President of the Republic of a Quantum Plan endowed with 1.8 billion euros over five years - of which one billion euros is provided by the State - the government has made official the launch of a national platform for quantum computing, whose objective is to couple quantum machines to a classical supercomputer, so as to create hybrid systems that will allow a tenfold increase in performance to perform complex calculations. The first such coupling is scheduled for 2023.
Existing machines have a fatal flaw: the delicate quantum states they depend on last only a fraction of a second. It will take years to solve this problem. But if existing machines can be made useful in the interim, quantum computing could become a commercial reality much sooner than expected.
You will find below a presentation of three quantum start-ups founded or co-founded by Polytechnicians :
Co-founded in January 2020 by Pierre and Matthieu Desjardins, both from the X2008 class, C12 Quantum Electronics develops new generation quantum microprocessors, thanks to an elementary material, the carbon nanotube. Since this material has a minimal interface with its environment, the qubit of this processor has a very low probability of error. The number of qubit, which is the processing unit of quantum information, indicates the computational strength of quantum computers. This technology, which originated in the physics laboratory of the Ecole Normale Supérieure, lies at the interface of quantum electronics, materials science and nanofabrication. C12's objective is to accelerate the most complex calculations of industrial companies. The startup announced an initial fundraising round of $10 million in June 2021. This round of financing was conducted with the 360 Capital fund, Bpifrance via its Digital Venture fund, Airbus Ventures, BNP Paribas Développement and business angels such as Octave Klaba (OVHcloud). C12 was the winner in the Computer & Communication Hardware category of the Global Challenge 2021, organized by Hello Tomorrow in Paris on December 3, 2021.
Alice&Bob aims to deliver exponential quantum computing power across industries. Co-founded in February 2020, Alice&Bob was born from the meeting of two physicists from ENS Lyon and ENS Paris, Théau Peronnin (X2012) and Raphaël Lescanne. By combining their thesis work, respectively on the modular architecture and on the first prototype of a cat qubit, a new path towards the universal quantum computer becomes possible. Such a machine will be able to run any algorithm, like any classical processor, but above all in a 100% quantum way, without decoherence, i.e. without any error resulting from the transition from a quantum state to a classical state. The start-up raised €3 million in May 2020. It is one of 65 innovative start-ups to be awarded €363 million in funding by the European Innovation Council in October 2021, each of which can receive up to €17 million in grants or equity to develop and scale up their project. Alice&Bob, supported by Elaia and Breega, CNRS, INRIA, ENS Paris, ENS Lyon, CEA, Les Mines ParisTech and Agoranov, has a team of 30 people.
Quandela, co-founded in 2017 by Pascale Senellart (X93), research director at the Centre de Nanosciences et de Nanotechnologies of the CNRS and Université Paris-Saclay, Valérian Giesz, engineer and PhD in quantum optics, and Niccolo Somaschi, PhD in semiconductor nanotechnology, focuses on the development of a photonic quantum computer, using the properties of light for information processing in the context of quantum computing. It introduced a single-photon emitter, Prometheus, in 2020. The startup encodes information onto photons inserted into glass mini chips. While chips in computers and cell phones contain electrons, photon chips are a crucial component for quantum computers. Quandela announced on November 16, 2021 that it had raised €15 million in funding from Omnes, Bpifrance's Defense Innovation Fund and the Quantonation fund. The start-up aims to make the first complete photonic computer available as early as 2022 by providing access to it via an online platform.