Five minutes with Professor Andrew Briggs, Co-Founder of QuantrolOx
Post created by The Oxford Trust to give insight into the science and tech businesses they support in their innovation centres: the Oxford Centre for Innovation and the Wood Centre for Innovation.
Fresh out of the University of Oxford, quantum start-up QuantrolOx joins ColdQuanta and Quantum Dice to create a mini-quantum hub at our Oxford Centre of Innovation.
We spoke to Executive Chair and Co-Founder of QuantrolOx, Professor Andrew Briggs to find out about the company’s pioneering quantum technology.
“There is terrific momentum around quantum computers, which will enable faster and better calculations” says Andrew. “QuantrolOx’s software is using AI to accelerate the development of these quantum technologies.”
Qubits, or quantum bits, are the fundamental building blocks of quantum computers. In a classical computer, a bit is in one state or another. Quantum mechanics allows the qubit to be in two states simultaneously. However, “qubits are very fragile,” says Andrew, “so it is hard to ‘tune’ them up to ensure they perform correctly. They have subtle variations requiring different sets of control parameters to render each one useable and, as the number of qubits increases, it becomes harder and harder to tune and characterise them.”
This is where QuantrolOx comes in – their AI software characterises the qubits and works out their properties to ensure they perform and work in the way you want them to. The software automates the process and gives faster feedback to improve overall performance. “It’s machine learning – and the emphasis is on the learning – used to tune, stabilise and optimise qubits significantly faster,” says Andrew.
The company was formed from work carried out in the University of Oxford Department of Materials. Early on in their work on quantum experiments, they realised they needed to benefit from machine learning. In 2015, idea was discussed by the Advisory Board, chaired by Dr Herman Hauser, an Austrian-born entrepreneur, venture capitalist and inventor. “It took time”, says Andrew, “but, over the last five years, we just got better and better at what we do.”
“In some ways our story has parallels to the late Sir Martin and Lady Audrey Wood’s journey in setting up Oxford Instruments,” says Andrew. “We had the best product available in the world for machine learning for quantum technologies and we were being asked to help institutions and companies from Copenhagen to Sydney with tuning their devices. We then realised that we had a viable commercial product on our hands.”
Andrew – and CEO Vishal Chatrath, Chief Scientist, Natalia Ares and Head of Quantum Technologies, Dominic Lennon – set up QuantrolOx in July 2021.
Quantrolox – a combination of “quantum”, “control” and “Oxford” – now has eight employees, some straight out of the University. They have pre-seed funding of £1.4m from Neilsen Ventures and Hoxton Ventrues, and a grant from NQCC to help them get started.
The company’s software is technology agnostic so is applicable to all standard quantum technologies and will work on one qubit and – hopefully – millions of qubits down the line. The company is initially targeting solid-state qubits where the team has already demonstrated substantial practical benefits. At the moment, their priority is market penetration over revenue. They know they’ve got the best product around and they just want to get it out there.
We are still in the early stages of quantum computing but tools from companies like QuantrolOx might help us reach a brave new world of quantum computing sooner than we thought.
For more information about Quantrolox, see here.
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