Investment

Family offices warm to quantum computing

As the race for quantum computing advantage warms up, family offices are frequent backers to the sector, expected to be worth $65 billion by 2030. 

One new backer Bessemer Venture Partners, which led a recent $79 million funding round at US-based Rigetti Computing, a leading quantum independent.

Bessemer’s clients comprise many of the richest families in the US. Its deep tech expert Tomer Diari has become a director at Rigetti, founded by former IBM physicist Chad Rigetti. Other new investors include Singapore state agency EDBI and Morpheus Ventures, chaired by early Skype investor Mark Dyne.

Scientists say a spinning black hole would offer ideal conditions for the management of a quantum computer.  Good luck with that one…

Elsewhere, Brad Feld’s Foundry Group joined a $32 million ColdQuanta fundraising led by Global Frontier Investment in November.  Venrock, a venture capital business founded by the late Laurance Rockefeller, is a keen backer of Atomic Computing. 

Other quantum contenders include Google, IBM, Baidu, Honeywell, Intel, Microsoft, IonQ, PSIQuantum, Universal Quantum and Xanadu. They are not alone. 

Bessemer’s Diari believes quantum can deliver a paradigm shift in computing: “As we continue pushing the boundaries of science deeper into the realms of science fiction.”

Conventional computer memory comprises bits which only have one value, 0 or 1. Four bits can only produce 16 alternative properties, one at a time. 

In contrast, a quantum bit, or qubit, exhibits both of values, in varying degrees, at the same time, through superpositioning. So you can use 16 values at once, making four qubits worth 65,500 bits. 

You only need a 50-qubit computer to produce more power than conventional computers and IBM has plans to put a thousand to work. 

The problem is that qubits – sub-atomic particles – need to stay aligned for long enough to produce error-free calculations. Right now, they can only be coaxed into remaining stable for 200 microseconds.

If you are channelling light photons from laser beams you can use a complex set of mirrors to achieve a working model. You can make other particles behave by storing them at temperatures close to absolute zero or trapping them in magnetic fields. Some developers are trying to use spinning electrons, which react weakly to external stimulus.

Interference can come from heat sources or magnetic fields. According to MIT, the greatest threat to the industry could come from cosmic rays, which are hard to shield against. MIT says this could put limits on quantum computer development.

Many compare the quest for durable qubit alignment to the way Einstein’s theories of time and space produce a stable universe. Scientists say a spinning black hole would offer ideal conditions for the running of a quantum computer.  Good luck with that one.

The advantage offered by smoothly-running quantum computers results from their breadth of calculations, as well as their speed.

They could, for example, carry out molecular modelling to assist with medical research and the creation of new materials.  

Researchers believe they could be pressed into service to find vaccines against future pandemics.

Quantum encryption would eliminate data theft while creating problems by making it possible to de-encrypt existing solutions.

Risk modelling would also become precise. Goldman Sachs says this offers big implications for the pricing of derivatives, as market inefficiencies get taken into account.

The retail trade would employ it to work out complex global purchasing patterns in different scenarios. 

Quantum computers can also pave the way for AI, by speeding up the process of machine learning while taking account of a vast range of data inputs.

The forecasting of extreme weather events will become super-accurate, along with climate forecasts, as quantum computers draw on data relating to the planet.

In early December, a team of Chinese scientists claimed quantum advantage by calculating the natural distribution of sub-atomic particles known as bosons. 

Their quantum computer found the answer in 200 seconds by quickfire trial and error.  A supercomputer would take 2.5 billion years. 

Last year, Google claimed an advantage by programming its embryonic quantum computer to work out a complex algorithm.  IBM later said it could achieve this in 2.5 days with its existing supercomputers. That said, Google can claim superior programming capabilities.  

Given quantum computers have enormous military and societal implications, the US is worried about China’s plan to invest $10 billion in quantum computers through its National Laboratory for Quantum Information Sciences. 

Former Google chief executive Eric Schmidt has urged the US to use federal funds to boost quantum capability. The Trump Administration agreed to invest $1 billion in AI and quantum computing in August, after dubbing it a “critical priority”.

The race is very much on. 

 

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