The Future of Quantum Hardware

Interviewee: Simon Phillips
Chief Technology Officer at Oxford Quantum Circuits
Interviewer: Phil Merchant
Senior Associate at Marks & Clerk




[Phil] Hello and welcome everyone. My name is Phil Merchant. I’m a UK and European pattern attorney, with Marks and Clark, LLP. We’re a firm of patent and trademark attorneys with offices across the UK, and we help our clients secure protection for their inventions, including through filing and prosecution of past applications, not only the Uk, but uh, Europe and worldwide. I’m also an author here at Dead Cat Live Cat, which is an online quantum computing focused collaboration of Ip lawyers, including BLG in Canada, Schindlers in South Africa, Zuber Lawler in the US, and of course, Marks Clerk here in the UK. Ah, today I have with me. Simon Phillips, Simon is the chief technology officer of Oxford Quantum Circuits, and Simon is an experienced technology executive as a seasoned entrepreneur with significant experience and understanding the fast-paced quantum technology Sector. Simon it’s it’s such a pleasure to have you with us today and to talk to you about quantum tech and Oxford quantum circuits. Thank you so much for joining us.

[Simon] Yeah, no, thank you. Thank you for inviting me along. It’s a pleasure to be here

[Phil] fantastic, so I think to start off with. It might be useful if you could maybe tell us a little bit about yourself and your background. So. So how did you find yourself in in quantum computing?

[Simon] Yeah, it’s interesting actually being introduced as an entrepreneur? I think that’s kind of code for uneducated or not my intention, so I I don’t have a physics background. I’ve been with the company for around three years now, and I think i’m employee number four or five, or or something like that which is growing enormously there. But my um! My job within the company is really to be responsible for the entire technical output of building quantum computers. So that’s covering all bases from, you know. Sort of we we do the you know the design and build the fabrication of QPUs. For us, the chips themselves. In our superconducting architecture we build a lot of the cryogenic kind of housing and control systems that go with that as well. Um, we build around room temperature control electronics, Pcb: design and Fpga design. And then we have, like a huge software team as well. That does our kind of capacity Compilers optimizers run up to our cloud infrastructure. So it’s really like four or five for businesses in in one. My job is to kind of harness that altogether, into a roadmap and deliver against that. And the I think the exciting thing for me is for each of those teams we’ve got really well-being experts running all of those teams right? So within our quantum space we have three quantum teams. We have a materials and devices, Team and R. And D. Team and quantum systems team and all of those leads that run Those teams are our world experts in their field as our software and the control systems. And so so so my job’s pretty easy. My job is to kind of inspire people to think big is to really kind of navigate where we think quantum computing is going to go and hold that vision for the company, and kind oflet the teams have at it really. And you know, kind of encourage people to to do to do good things. My background prior to OQC. Was actually in the software, industry. I was a video games programmer in the nineteen Nineties and not a particularly great video games program. So I got into the business side of of building and and growing various video game development and that kind of spawned into um a number of different industry changes, and the and the point of this, I guess, is relevant to where we are in quantum computing today. So we sort of saw when three D gaming came out when the Internet gaming came out when to play gaming came out, and then, you know more recently into things like nfts and and crypto gaming and things like that. But the really exciting thing about all of that was, no one knew what was going to happen. So one day you wake up, and someone’s decided that you’re going to spend ten million pounds making a video game. And now we’re going to give it away for free. And we had to navigate that from a business point of view, technology, point of view, and just really react very, very quickly. And we’re sort of seeing the same kind of things happening in quantum computing. Right? We’re on the very edge of this technology at the moment. We have a good idea of what it’s going to be used for, and you know where we want to see it going, but we don’t really know how that’s going to evolve, and all that experience I’ve had in the video games. World is is really kind of, you know, paying dividends now in terms of it’s let’s not be scared that there isn’t a business model. Let’s not be scared that no one knows how it’s going to evolve. And let’s not be scared of. You know the the supergiants that are in the space that we consider our competition as well, Right? I think we’ve we’ve got the the best people we’ve got. Some really cool core patented technology as long as we’re brave and we think big, you know, we can can compete and create something amazing. So yeah, that’s a little bit about the back. I told you I jumped down.

[Phil] No, no, no, it’s. It’s an interesting. I think I know. When I was younger I wanted to. I wanted to more than anything. What was to design computer games. Yeah,

[Simon] It’s we, we always We We could change the world with video games. And now i’m kind of looking back and laughing very well, really close to.

[Phil] Well, Quantum will hopefully change the world in in many ways. So it’s not too circuit. It’s so cute as a rick for you. Um, and I guess, like as you say, computer games have been adopters, and they’ve management quite lucrative, emerging tech, As you said, threed games and Vr: as well. So you’re quite experienced in them in seeing those things coming, and and they’ve been levering them for.

[Simon] The I think the other thing that we’re sort of painting aware of is where we’re kind of growing into quantum Computing is kind of seeing those opportunities that come up and knowing how to change your stack or your approach, or you know, making sure that we’ve got people using the quantum computers and that kind of went into our our strategy a bit when we um talked about this a bit later, when we launched on aws and the whole theory, there was the more we could just let people use quantum computers. The more we’ll understand about one it is we’re building it. And more people will understand about the algorithms they’re trying to develop the problems they’re going to solve. And again, that’s very similar to video games where you can design something in isolation, but it’s only when people use it. But you realize It’s the right thing, or you can tweak it or change it. So we want to make sure we’re not building quantum computers in complete isolation that we’re actually doing it, you know, kind of in collaboration with the people that are going to be the end users or the end customers.

[Phil] Oh, that that makes sense. So you’ve already spoken a little bit about um oxycles and circuits in terms of the teams you have there, and and the roles to help. But could you tell me a bit more about the company itself? And when when did it start? And what was What’s the background there?

[Simon] Yeah, sure, We’re a a University of Oxford spin out, and we spent out in two thousand and seventeen, really with um a a core piece of technology which came from a Peter League’s group at the University of Oxford League Lab, and it’s the we call it the coax model. It’s our patentude, 3D architecture which allows us a way of scaling superconducting cubits in a really kind of neat, flexible way, you to give a little, I guess, a small amount of detail on it. What it basically means is all of the control wire, and you get the usual 2D architecture of the conducting circuits is completely out of plane now, so we don’t have any kind of control wires on the surface of our chip. We don’t have any um, you know. Sort of 2D interference from the signal chain, or any kind of you know, magnetic couplings, or anything like that. Everything comes in. It was completely three d and in a coaxial, mode-matched way so long, and short. What that really means is, we have really low crustal between our qubits and a really clean surface on our substrate to be able to create really unique connectivity patterns without having to worry about where the controlled wires are going to root, or how they’re going to interfere with the qubit. So we get linearly bigger as we add, c. Which we don’t get exponentially bigger, and in terms of physical size and density, and there’s a whole host of other really neat things we can do when it comes to modularity and and other sort of engineering solutions. But it’s a really neat way of building qubits. So we spent at the University with that, and probably the first year was spent. Um, yeah, paperwork, I would say. And then the Come, people in our Ceo. Dr. Lion Wisbey. Um, who’s a really good friend of mine as well, and and she really sort of started to turn a pattern and a spin out into a business, and he sort of recruited a number of people, including myself, to start working out how we take all that knowledge out of the university and bring it into the company. As we stand on our own two feet. When we were fortunate that we were able to do that by getting the right people in. We were unfortunate that the pandemic sort of started here, and just as we were getting into our stride, and you know, and and start closing. And you know, we can’t get access to equipment that we we’ve previously had. But um over those first few years. Yeah, we really kind of learned how to take that collection on technology and the fabrication technology of these qubits that have been improved in the University, And we do that ourselves. Um! Just over a year ago we launched our first cloud-enabled quantum computer, and which was the the first in the UK Europe. That was a four cubic one’s computer. That was end to end. What I mean by that was all of our technology staff was activated so you could access it via our cloud interface, and it would use our ah control software and compilers. It would use our custom control hardware, and it would kind of drive ultimately cubits and and chips that we do ourselves as well, and we worked closely with Cambridge content, now continuing with their ironbridge algorithm that they did as part of the cybersecurity program, and we sort of generated some keys, you know. Kind of prove that the whole system worked, and we were really chuffed at that point, and we kind of built this this whole thing, and we did it for very little money in comparison to a lot of other companies. We were still running on our our seed money at the time, which was impressive, fast forward. What was that? And year ago Fast was six months from there. We then moved on to our eight key bit chip. So we’ve gone from previously. We’re looking at one and two cubits. Then we’ve done a four keyboard, chip, and then moving on to our a key bitchip. And then we um we pond with Amazon to launch um on AWS bracket to be the first um quantum computer available on bracket outside of North America, which was became quite a quite a bit, and um a big undertaking for us as a company. It meant. Not only was it running our entire intern systems with them we’re into, you know, pen testing or into cyber security we’re into, you know, matching our cloud Api with with Amazon’s Apis, and really kind of moving into a world where suddenly we’re running a twenty, four, seven service. So this is a You know, a light year away from academic set ups the light here away from just building a consecutor. Now we’ve got a light on a dashboard, and we’ve got to keep that green twenty four hours a day. So that was a a whole new challenge. That was only what sort of six months ago or so, and since then we’ve, you know, fast. For another six months. We’re moving to the next generation of our cubic platform, which is really exciting. We’ve just closed the first close on our series Eight, which is really really exciting. That was the largest quantum series, a in the Uk. Which was recall where, as part of that we’re really proud to be supported by existing investors and some new investors, and got a new co-ed investor. That’s super exciting which is the now allowing us to look at how we use our technology overseas as well. So we’re we’re moving very fast. The technology is inherently scalable, which is really really good. And yeah, we’re recruiting. We’re growing. We’re up to sixty five people now as well. I think so. Yeah, it’s It’s exciting times and all that in you know what feels it feels like the blink of an eye. But in whatever that is four five years. So yeah,

[Phil] during the pandemic as well. So it’s really hard to. Exactly. And you need to be on site, and they’re playing around with the equipment.

[Simon] I mean it was. It was a real, a real struggle. Actually, you know, we want to keep everybody home. We keep everybody safe. But we’ve got a bit of a lab. We’ve got to physically use this equipment so trying to figure out how we can run A and B teams, and you know just all the things we learn about. Yeah, just I guess I guess it helped us build really robust company policies into a really young company, and it’s helping now the way we’re growing quite quickly. But yeah, it was a lot of lot of energy went into pandemic navigation as it as it did with a lot of people, right?

[Phil] Yeah, sure, basically in. And yeah, you’re you’re in research in academia. You need to be on onsite playing around with these things. Yes, it was growing company. But that’s that’s That’s impressive growth and and and fascinating developments. And a couple of questions I had on. That was was when you do scale from four, keep it up to eight. Key. The next generation is at sixteen qubits, or?

[Simon] it’s actually, I mean It’s a I guess It’s a bit of a red herring that we’ve got up in kind of houses, if you like, but it’s going to be. It’s going to be larger than that. Okay, again, we’re We’re really fortunate with the the way the collapse mon scales in the we’re able to keep the fundamental three D architecture, the same, regardless of the number of qubits. So we don’t have to do things like flip chips or bonding. And we’re not navigating any of these kind of fabrication, complications that other architectures or semiconductor architectures have. It’s. It’s almost simply a case of adding more qubits, moving the problems into engineering problems. You know how do we call the number of control wires down? What technology do we need to to drive that sort of thing? But really we’re able to pick qubit numbers that allow us to do more future tasks. So when we start looking at, you know sort of error, correction, surface codes, and things like that. So the number of cubits will be linked to a number of other things. But it’s not necessarily a power of two, so it’s going to be higher than sixty, and I think there might be numbers floating around a moment. But I won’t commit to anything on on here right now. But then very quickly over the next few years we’ll we’ll scale pretty pretty exponentially as well. So we do expect to go from, You know, tens of cubits to hundreds, to thousands, to tens of thousands pretty you now, and so we’ve got good vision, and on our roadmap it’s not easy, you know. There’s a lot of the challenges to overcome. And one of the things that we want to do with our architecture is. doesn’t sound that exciting. But it’s pretty fundamental, because every time we release a new processor. We have the same or better performance in terms of our constant volume and our kind of error rates, which doesn’t sound that exciting. But it’s a challenge, you know, within the superconducting circuit it’s another quantum modalities that every time you add more cubits. You’ve got to really control how you compound errors in cross-talk and things like that and again reform. You know It’s set up that we’ve got that We don’t compound, cross-talk and in any way similar to other architectures. So we should be able to effectively add more cubits. Then that gets us into the world where what we want to do is openc is not focus on cubic numbers. It’s almost irrelevant. What we really care about are the quality of those processes, so the error rate the quantum volume rather than just the number of cubic drivers. What’s the point? Having a million cubic If they’re rubbish, you have that. But we yeah, we’re going to scale pretty quickly. Now.

[Phil] that’s interesting that you can scale without necessarily affecting the cross talk. And that’s probably because the three architecture you you were talking about. Yeah, And can that all be done on on a single chip? Or are you thinking about doing modular modules ofclusters, or both?

[Simon] To be honest, I think. Um, we’ve well that the the League labs, the University have have proven our stacking of collection on chips, which is really cool. So if we think about the way our wires come in, and we’ve got our substrate, and we keep it’s resonating. But we don’t galvanically boom to the gym at all. So it’s easy for us to actually take one stick one on top. In fact, I think there was a talk of March meeting just gone actually from leadlab about them, actually stacking chips together so sadly. We’re in a world where, if we think about building like brick walls, or we think about stacking on cubits together, we can go large, you know, to our maximum wafer size, if you like, but we’ve inherently got this ability to cover across substrate as well, so we’ll run a program. I guess much like um. Most of my dancers do, where we’ll have a modularity piece to our to our system as well. But, uh, we expect to see more of that over the next kind of twelve months.

[Phil] What are you most excited about?

[Simon] I’m excited about telecommunications. But that might not be the first one.

[Phil] So, looking forward to future announcements, that was very exciting. Um! So just to go back on the previous point you made about that kind of territory and and location to your first, the first offering in Europe. Um! And you think about moving overseas, is it? Is there a territorial restriction on this or any concerns about that?

[Simon] Interestingly so? There are a number of regulations that are starting to come to light. And but what we’re really seeing is a lot of the businesses, multinational businesses that are starting to explore this technology. You have sort of genuine concerns over data, sovereignty and data, you know, on sharing, if you like. So okay, there’s There’s regulations like, you know, European data protection, Gdpr: and those kind of things to worry about. But at this stage people are really looking to have machines or keep their data in the territories that it resides in. So we’re seeing a lot of people saying, you know, in the U. K. They want to use a Uk-based machine which is really fortunate, I mean some of the European places can access it. Some people don’t care about that, so we can freely move across networks. Um, but for sure, there’s a a driver. The moment. I have data on shore in Daisy sovereignty, and that goes into Yeah, everything we do with data, right? So the closer we can keep data together, the the better. We can do kind of hybrid processing in the future, and and things like that as well. So territories will become really important.

[Phil] Okay, Okay? And do you think that there might be any kind of um standards that might be set up? That might be relevant for what you, as you start expanding a technology across different sectors and different countries like with mobile phones, you, you know, if they have like, maybe standards evolving that people have to adhere to. Do you think something like that might come up for quantum tech?

[Simon] I think it will. Um, but I think it has to. Um. I think there’s I mean, even down to a practical level of today. It’s really hard to compare consequences with each other in benchmarking and things like that, And I think outside of the community. We’re we’re starting to see more education, even in the investor community and in their business community about just understanding. When you know when an ion Trap Company says their number of cubits versus a superconducting number of qubits, or talk about quantity volume, but that doesn’t necessarily measure some other aspects and things like that. It’s it. It can be pretty pretty confusing, Pretty daunting. Um. So yeah, I think there’s got to be a lot of standards around there. I think there’s got to be a lot of standards around sort of deployment and infrastructure as well, so I think we’ll see that coming soon. But I guess, from our point of view we we will assist in standards generation, but we don’t want to let it hold us back or stop us doing what we’re doing. It’s quite good fun at the moment, right? We’ve got a lot of people doing a lot of cool things, and the more cool things we can do the better.

[Phil] It is very of a playground at the moment, and that was kind of experimenting with different things. Yeah. So I mean, Ah, but please want another question then. I mean, I’ve heard it said several times, and with my many people that quantum tech is is currently a nascent or a merging technology sector is that Do you agree with that statement?

[Simon] Um: yeah. I I think that’s true. I think the important thing to realize now is, it exists, You know, we can actually use this technology. It’s connected to our Internet it’s connected to our you know, infrastructure. And we can actually start learning how to use it. And whilst we can’t run anything particularly useful on today’s computers, we can start learning how we do it. It is. Ah, sometimes we forget how nascent it is that I’m Trying to keep this green light green on a dashboard and throwing everything at it like It’s the end of the world. If you get a slight instability or something, you have to remember that this is so experimental, right? It’s only been around for a few years. It’s technology. It’s nowhere near mature. It is very nice, and we’re seeing some real big innovations coming up as well, just to sort of back up. But we must remember that it does exist. That’s the other important thing there, I mean we did we. We were involved at um defcon a few weeks ago in in Las Vegas, and we provide some live quantum computing service to a hackathon. You know what could possibly go wrong with. Take a consequence to the world’s largest hacking conference, and it was fascinating that we even had some people approach us and say, like we didn’t know this was real yet, and we thinking, Well, okay, that’s how much of a journey we still want to go in when very tech Savvy Audience: Isn’t: necessarily where those computers do exist, and they can as well. But that was that was pretty exciting.

[Phil] And i’m i’m thinking back to my own physics education there, over a decade ago, studying quantum. And then in the veterans saying, You know, we haven’t really got any consequence of computers. Yet this is how we work. We’ve got one qubit here, and it’s It’s amazing to think how much has come on in that time. You’ve got this.

[Simon] Yeah, you you and I. Could, you know, open a python notebook and send some chasm code over to Lucy right now, you know we could. You know It’s that It’s that simple. The infrastructure is really there now, which is amazing,

[Phil] fantastic. So is it? Quite so. It’s very simple as to complete novices in this area might be able to purchase time on on Lucy and um and experiment play around with the quantum computer.

[Simon] Yeah, that that’s exactly. And we’re fortunate. We’ve got things like Aws bracket where it’s very straightforward to create an account. There’s lots of really good examples. We’ve got things like the Kisket Um libraries which have really good examples and link things back to business value problems for people to start understanding what it means to write quantum code. And we we’ve been surprised. Surprise, maybe that’s not quite the right word how um quantum. Really, lots of people are, and it’s down to the lack of access. And there’s only so much theory you can read. But when you can start writing code playing with code understanding what the results mean that we’ll start seeing people involved for thinking into quantum algorithms as opposed to classical algorithms. I think.

[Phil] Yes, so hopefully. We’ll see the market mature, and people get more experienced in time. So how how would you see? How would you like? I think i’m trying to ask you to forecast the future here. But how would you see the market changing over the next five, ten years, and what people can access and use.

[Simon] Yes, I think I mean we we have a direct strategy there. I think what we’re seeing is we’ve got this kind of technical roadmap that shows that we’re going to build. You know, bigger, higher quality processes, faster machines, you know. More qubits, better quantum volumes, and ultimately move towards for tolerance. And that’s a big challenge to get there. But we we kind of understand what we need to do to agree on that.Then what we’ve really got to do is accompany. And And so you see, we take responsibility for this as well in terms of being an on-ramp for end customers. So people want to know how to use it, and at the moment there’s a mixture of big businesses out there. Some of them have their own quantum teams, and they want to build their own algorithms and own that intellectual property themselves. Some of them are curious. Some of them have got fomo because other people are doing things. But ultimately what we need to do is give access to those companies just to let people play around, learn, understand whether they want to recruit, build their own scientific teams, although they want to use software. And so we’ve got this kind of work stream which we call on-ramping, which is yeah, and enabling people to use computers today, and even at eight qubits with Lucy, you know, you can actually read the quantum assembly language and understand it today, whereas if you wait ten years you won’t be able to. You would have lost that advantage of learning. So for sure, we’ve got this this kind of educational piece, which I think is important. I think every quantum computing hardware provider should, should, you know, take that really seriously, because we do need to accelerate that education, and outside of that we’ve also got infrastructure base which is making it frictionless for people to use quantum computers. So today, you know, traditionally, you either go on a dot, Us bracket or you have to search up upon’s. Computer companies. Send them an email, negotiate a contract, get some time, and what we really want to do is make quantities seamless for everybody. And really, the long-term vision is, People should be able to write applications, to solve their business problems and not care that it’s a quantum computer, not care that it’s a Gpu or a Cpu. It just uses the right technology to solve the problem. So we want to make sure we’re building our close computers in a way that they just frictionlessly slide into people’s infrastructure. So if you’re a large bank or a pharmaceutical company like that, and you on a quantum computer on your network for the next six months. You should be a drop-down, and you know, like you would provision more, and cpus, or storage, or or anything like that. So we’ve got to make sure that by the time we’ve got the processes we’ve educated the customers that the technology is just there in their fingertips, and it’s not not clunky or difficult to to get into. And these are all there. All the things we need to try and solve even before we’ve up to the science problems. Right? Yeah, it’s a huge, huge undertaking. But yeah, we’re We’re pretty fine, with a lot of really good ideas about how we’re going to do that over the next few years as well.

[Phil] Excellent. So yeah, it’s a question because the question of technology is a question of adapting, because I mean, when sent to which a technology is is adapted by the general public is whether they come, want to use it, or they find a business use for it, and so on. And it sounds like suddenly the quantum that definitely is a benefit to using it. I guess it’s just on boarding them while they still feel like they can. Um, Smith. Right Yeah, some of your messages to companies just to get on this as soon as possible before it becomes that much of an energy barrier.

[Simon] That’s right. Yeah. I mean today, like I say today, There are few companies that have the ability just to start writing quantum assembly language, but there are a whole heap of tools and tutorials. They can start learning about when there is simulators, of course. But really you want to start playing with the hardware, even though we’re in this kind of miscar or the noisy era. If you can learn how this is working as it evolves towards Toronto, you’ll You’ll be on a journey with it. And there’s that kind of mysterious thing about Fort Tollander. There’s an um sort of a misunderstanding that we’re going to jump from one era to another. It’s it’s it’s it’s kind of this long transition to more and more full tolerance. So there’s a There’s a world where I think those are going to have leading advantage in business. We’ll start learning now those that are going to wait five, ten years until we’ve got millions of cubits, or whatever we’re going to be, and are just going to be behind the curve, I think.

[Phil] Yeah. Yeah. So I mean with the provision on the aws of of services for Lucy. And you have this access to two companies, have you? I mean you probably not at liberty to tell me, or just to our listeners, who who might be using the service. But are you seeing in general much interest or much push back, or much confusion? What’s the reaction like to the availability?

[Simon] It’s been really good. I mean, we’ve been fascinated to learn, and we weren’t really closer with the team of bracket around, you know, even which kind of demographics, or which market verticals are starting to use the system and the split between. You know, industry, between research groups, what type of industry they’re in and things like that. It’s been fascinating. I don’t think any wild surprises. There’s been a few technical surprises, I think, around. You know the number of shots versus tasks that people run, and you know it’s a real design. Things that help us build better quantum computing in the future. So that’s that’s been interesting. But, um! The the great thing for us is just seeing the results of what people have done. And there’s been some research papers that came out as soon as we launched. You know it’s like. Wow! This is great to have independent views on our computer that we’ve kind of been building in. a bubble, Um, we really hate that. We hate that concept in in the bubble, right? We we might think we’re making is amazing. But let’s let people use it, and then we’ll find out exactly what we’re doing. But that’s been really great working with AWS and really ticks the goal of this accessibility piece that’s. Let people use the technology, and that’ll help us helps grow quickly.

[Phil] fantastic. And and you’ve been able to use that feedback and use those results in developing the next generation

[Simon] definitely definitely like that goes across everything, and you know the way we build future processes, we can be informed. I’ll start being informed about the types of things before. You kinda have this cold sweat, nightmare that you end up making a million cubic, highly connected process, and people just don’t want it, you know, and you’ve spent everything with all your energy doing it. So working out what people actually want, what connectivity bounds, and what’s useful, what you know, what the balance you trade off for the different parameters that we can do some processing things like that. So if useful, and then all the other things that go to take down the friction of barriers like I said earlier around. You know we don’t have pricing to be a barrier to entry at the moment. You know we’re not. I think people that are in pumps computing today to make money, and you know It’s not there, right? We’re on Mason. From that point of view we need to make sure that people learn how to use things without worrying about the cost of it. We can all get that information by letting people use it.

[Phil] Yeah. Excellent and Lucy and similar quantum computers are? How, how big are they? Is it is the question at How are they? How are they physically great?

[Simon] eah, Yeah. Um. So with self-contracting circuits we we still have to call the processes down to me. Health, and that’s something that’s not going to go away. So the the large part of our infrastructure is a diolution refrigerator. That’s that’s pretty big. Um! Well, it’s all relative right? It’s. It’s relatively big compared to the processing power. The one good thing that we have again with the coax. One is, it allows us to scale the the Qpus within that kind of physical infrastructure to a really high degree. So we can see really far into the future with today’s dilution refrigerators. And this comes from this kind of linear scaling rather than exponential scaling things. So we know that if we had a traditional two D architecture for superconducting circuits, we’d be really worried about how we’re going to cool it down in the next couple of years with the collection with, We’re not. We’re also really fortunate that we work closely with some of the dilution refrigerated manufacturers. About what technology is coming next, and if they can make it work for this type of process that’ll be really useful for us, and we can start designing things around it. But typically you’re looking at a four by four meter cube basically to fit everything in. We’re fortunate. I mean, people said we were slightly bonkers. So we were fortunate that we filled all of our room temperature control electronics as well. So we can really be in control of how we scale that control stack. So you sort of. There’s a lot of focus on scale, and the qubits which for sure, is a big, big technical program. But equally, how do you scale the control systems, and all of the you know. Ah, Rf. Chain and the microwave chain that goes with controlling it, How to keep that under control again. It’s fine for eight, you know. Eighty eight hundred cubits, for when we’re talking millions of cubits how we’re going to keep that in three racks, you know. So we’re not using an entire lab just for control racks or something like that. So we have a lot of recession development,

[Phil] sure that that that’s very interesting to me. And one of the things that behind this guy thinking in my brain is, when are we going to see our quantum computers at home, but unless we have a dilution fridge,

[Simon] so I don’t. Yeah, I think there’s there. There will be quantum technologies that that end up in in the home, I think, for sure. And you know there might be encryptors, decryptors, accelerators, or pieces of quantum technology for me like there’s there’s no real need. I don’t think I think we see a world where we call ourselves a pure-play. Constant Computer Service Company as in infrastructure we’re building allows you to access the computer. Remotely. It allows you to hybridize your applications remotely close to everything you need to do remotely. Um, That’s not necessarily over the cloud we do direct connect. So there’s this. Some people are still quite cloudy. I think you know we don’t want to mix our data with Ah, with the you know the the great unwashed of the Internet. But you know, we think about direct connects even to the point. We had a a debate with someone about buying a quant’s computer and putting it in a basement, you know, in their building. And suddenly as well, it’s it’s tens of millions of pounds. It’ll be out of date in six months, and you need a few engineers to run it every day, and you’re probably going to connect with over your network, anyway. So you still need a classical computer to interface with it. So why not just put it in an environment where it’s got four redundancy. It’s got four maintenance. It’s a full upgrade and and run it in a kind of as a service way. But that said, I think you know there’s a lot more core quantum technologies coming up at the moment around, you know, networking and switching and accelerators. So I think we will end up with some quantum technology in the home. Um, but ultimately the big processing units a bit like you don’t have a big Gpu farm in your basement at home. So I think when we look at these type of technologies. I think there’s a world where they all live in a nice environment away from that.

[Phil] Uh, that’s uh. That’s interesting. Um, yeah, certainly. I I don’t have a on my base. It’s a good point you raised about. Uh That’s the reason I was thinking about it with some remember this first photos this massive computers people would have in in the twentieth century and punch cards and people of the time saying we we would never have all these in the home. Um, And that was obviously wrong. But uh, but now, yeah, we can put them in the central location by the cloud, and you can still leverage the advantage.

[Simon] The other thing to bear in mind with computers apart from some very, very specific algorithms, you need classical computers to use them. You know they’re not. They’re processing units on their own, and they’re, you know. One of the kids on the end are really always going to need some sort of classical computing to to operate this thing. So it makes sense that the opposite end of a very high-speed connection rather than it’s that mixture in a room.

[Phil] yeah, and that’s that’s an interesting point. I mean, they they’re there for a purpose. And so maybe the the we can’t do so. I wonder if I had a question to me. What particular problems do you think quantum computers are so suitable for solving that we we need to get sold by this. Why are we building up this phase? Yeah, What is the end goal and what are we actually trying to do.

[Simon] we know there are some things that can do that we just can’t do with classical processes, or with classical bits in terms of when we talk about materials, discovery, or, you know, modeling chemical structures and things like that, or any kind of level of exponential data. We just can’t do with classical processes. There’s a lot of applications for a very small amount of algorithms for quantum at the moment, and that might be just optimization problems. Or it might be modeling, You know. I’ll take it to like taking things out of the Wetland, for example. And actually, you know, modeling chemical interactions and things that we just can’t do with, you know, even if we pulled all of the transistors together in the world, we still wouldn’t be able to do it at any kind of sensible speed. But and equally there’s a lot of just quantum speed up things where we’re talking about processing data or or anything like that. The computers can help boost things forwards. And I think there’s all those kind of known cases. I think the exciting thing for me is Again, there’s back to the accessibility piece. When we allow people access to the technology along with all the other technology exist. I think we’ll find people solving problems. We didn’t even think were necessarily relevant for the content at all. But the exciting things are for me really those things that we just couldn’t do. So. You know, there’s always examples around caffeine molecules with ninety five electrons, and it takes ten to the forty eight transistors to do that, whereas a you know, with a a handful of qubits or a couple of handfuls, it’s really exciting, but it’s very exciting times coming up, I think.

[Phil] Yeah, absolutely. I’m: looking forward to more technologies, different results. And And one of the things I’ve I’ve heard um often is is the application of of quantum computers to cryptography or even breaking codes. And when you have the incredibly large prime numbers used to encrypt data. Um, a classical computer takes longer than timescale of of the universe, or something to to brute force attack that key. Ah, now we’ve gone to computers that processing speed can be dropped, and you can maybe break some of these keys far more simply. So. I mean, one thing I was thinking about is when quantum computers become more more mature they might be a security risk. Do we think? Is that a possibility?

[Simon] Yeah, I mean, I guess there’s that there is always that that level of security risk, like when we’re talking about any exponential data processing like i’m not factoring and and things like that. But I think what we’re already seeing in the community now is, know quantum encryption, so I think people are aware of, and the the need to be post-consum secure. And so again going back to some of the early examples of the Icons computer and creating these um constant random numbers and quantum keys and and things of that. So I think we’ll. We’ll be encrypting things before we get to the the stage of mass decryption. But I think, yeah, I I think it is a It is a real thing, but it comes down to to ethics, right, which we we probably shouldn’t get into on. In there. Um, but yeah, the the theories all there, I mean, there’s some way off as well, Right? I think that’s something. We realized that we’re already seeing new ways of encrypting data, using quantum and the real big scary things that people theorize about as some way off in terms of processing power so. But I think with everything right, it comes down to it, being ethical people being sensible people, taking the right proportions with data. And um, yeah, and not forgetting that there are lots of classical techniques out there for taking and descuring data as well. So we need to not forget about those as we kind of focus on the quantum coming through but. yeah, it’s going to be interesting to see how these things get used and what the world looks like in the future.

[Phil] Yeah, yeah, That I guess, question of what gets their first um ubiquitous quantum encryption, or you’ve just come to computing. And um I mean well, as as you say, I mean it’s always going to be vulnerability. But that that’s a very interesting topic to to watch. Um, let’s see what happens. So I think I have time for maybe one or one or two more more questions. So the I was, as we stopped, mentioned the start. The you you’re You’re a um entrepreneur, and have had experience in in setting up and and commercializing and new technologies. Um! Are there any particular unique challenges to entrance to the market or new businesses in the quantum sector?

[Simon] Uh, yes, she wants it. I think it’s. Yeah, no, it’s It’s It’s really challenging. I mean the one thing, but I guess it’s the hardest thing about trying to be entrepreneurial within the quantum computing spaces. Everything’s really expensive. It takes a long time, and we’re talking about trying to synchronize hardware teams, software teams, scientific research, academic research to try and, basically you know, produce a roadmap. That’s got enough conviction that someone’s going to invest in your business to allow you to try and make it happen without actually knowing specifically what’s going to happen. So finding like-minded investors is a really really big challenge we’ve been really fortunate at Qc. With the people that that we’ve got, that They believe in what we’re doing, and things like that. But it’s really hard when someone says to you, well, you know How are you going to do this in five years? So we’re going to try these things. But there’s no guarantees. It’s going to work. This is such new technology. So there’s a There’s a lot of challenges there, And I think we also always come back to the You know. What are people going to use quantum computers for, and it’s like. Well, if you were to ask us what people were going to use the Internet for when it was first invented, or what people do use classical computers as it would have been wrong, Right? So there’s a of just coming in really open-minded and nobody going. We’re creating a technology that enables things that we don’t even know yet. But what we do know is, it does very unique things, based on characteristics of nature that’s really exciting, and these are the sorts of things we expect to happen but until people start using this stuff like like, who knows? So I think it’s it’s difficult to not be forced to commit to things when really you need to keep your eyes wide open as well. So that’s that’s one of the biggest challenges. Yeah, just the the the sheer cost. You’ve got to be really brave with your decision making and like. And fortunately, with my experience, I so I say. Fortunately, someone might say otherwise, but unfortunately, with my experience Um, it goes across the entire business, right? So when we’re looking at financial strategy, commercial strategy, we’re also intertwined. So we can’t make a decision around the technology without thinking about the commercial impact or the financial impact. And it’s really really big, brave decisions you need to take to go right. We’re going to spend ten million pounds doing this or twenty million pounds doing that. And you know you’ve got to. Yeah, you’ve got to go in it with the the stomach for it and the eyes wide open. I think a bit challenging for sure.

[Phil] No, it does, and particularly finding the investors willing to take that leap with you, and it’s aware of the sector. It’s it’s possible it’s. Ah! As you’ve as you’ve shown today. .

[Simon] Absolutely. I think it’s You’ve been realistic about your You know your valuation, traction metrics and things like that, and you know, celebrating all the little wins along the way when piece of technology works, or a new customer wants to try something, or you know, all these other things helps to things. And I think that we’re seeing it every day. We’re seeing new people, and how fundraising fundraising is getting bigger. We’re seeing new partnerships form, you know there’s this momentum. The quantum computing has got. Now, which is that It’s thrilling, really. Yeah. And we’re really pleased to be in it and for me. Really fortunate with the team of people that I’ve got with me as well. That again, My, you know, as we start it’s questions. My job is actually quite easy. My job is just to kind of nod and go. Yeah, that sounds great. Let’s go, you know, and just inspire people to to get on the journey, and and it’s really down to their expertise in all their specific subjects of their their experts, you know. Yeah, that’s the scientific stuff we’ve taken people out of the automotive industry, and we’ve got a guy that runs our technical operations team, which is effectively all of our kind of lab space, our environment that we work in. I used to work for an automotive company building car factories. So to bring people like that into the industry is really exciting as well.

[Phil] I’m jealous of your job. To be honest, All that technology.

[Simon] You can come and we can make decisions together

[Phil] I have just want one last question to to wrap up, so the the word quantum is is often thrown around and used it. It’s kind of exciting new technology for you, but it can be maybe a bit intimidating to you. Don’t never so studied it. Are there any kind of myths, big myths or misunderstandings about quantum text you would like to or feel you can dispel.

[Simon] Um. Well, I think one one kind of mantra I guess we have internally is not all problems or quantum problems. So it is very easy to think that every problem is a quantum problem, and it’s also changed where sometimes it’s not, sometimes it’s just there, you mechanical. So I think there’s There’s definitely that level of thing, and actually, even through um, you know recruitment as Well, right. So people assume that because you’re a quantum couple, you have to have a Phd. In a quantum field, or you know you have to be X one. So which really you don’t right. So what we are is a computer company that uses quantum technologies. And so yeah, for sure, it is a it can be a really intimidated way. It can be an exciting way as well. But for sure, Yeah, I think they’re the main myth is there are some quantum problems, but not all problems of quantum problems. Some of them are just like building anything by putting a factory or building, you know, a piece of infrastructure or writing a piece of software in any industry it just happens to Have a quantum computer at the end of it. But I think I do think it’s changing. I think we’re starting to draw people in from different industries. We’re starting to have people talk about the you know the convergence of classical algorithms into quantum algorithms and almost to the point where, yeah, we can start breaking those myths down. But I completely agree that there is this on some mystery or something that seems to carry with it, but I think it’s becoming much more commonplace now,

[Phil] as you say, with more exposure of companies to the use of these instruments, they’ll maybe be a bit less. Let’s say they’re quite, a bit more excited as we are. Yes, lovely, fantastic. Well, and thank you very much for your your time, Simon. It’s been a pleasure to chat with You today, and the best and good luck with with the next generation.

[Simon] Thank you very much. I’m deadly serious you should come over to see Lucy or something.

[Phil] Absolutely. No, that I’ll have a great time to visit and have it out of the ground.

[Simon] Great stuff. Thank you.

[Phil] Thank you very much. Bye, bye.

Simon Phillips - Guest

Chief Technology Officer at Oxford Quantum Circuits

Simon Phillips is the CTO of Oxford Quantum Circuits (OQC), Europe’s leading quantum computing company. Simon is an experienced technology executive and seasoned entrepreneur. From fundraising, to scaling internationally, Simon has a deep understanding of the fast-paced technology sector. OQC develops technology that harnesses the power of quantum to do things previously deemed impossible, allowing customers to streamline their businesses and trailblaze new approaches. OQC delivered Europe’s first Quantum Computing-as-a-Service (QCaaS), built entirely using its proprietary technology- the Coaxmon. OQC’s latest system Lucy is now available on AWS – the first regional expansion of Amazon Braket to Europe, opening a world of opportunities for innovation in Europe.

Phil Merchant - Host

Senior Associate at Marks & Clerk

Phil has a First Class MPhys degree from the University of Oxford and a PhD in Condensed Matter Physics from University College London. His research experience is based in the field of Quantum Magnetism, with focus on excitations and criticality in low-dimensional spin systems. His experimental work included developing and applying neutron scattering techniques and instrumentation, using large-scale facilities at the Institut Laue–Langevin in Grenoble and the Paul Scherrer Institut in Switzerland.

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