By Steve Brierley, founder and CEO of Riverlane
The British government is investing over $3 billion over the next ten yearshopes to become the world’s leading quantum-enabled economy by 2033. This is a welcome investment that will help the UK quantum sector maintain the impressive momentum built over the previous 10 years.
In comparison, China has committed at least $4 billion (with some sources claiming $17+ billion) for quantum computing. The upper end of the range is roughly double the total funding commitment across the EU (or four times that in the US). Indeed, the UK may end up investing less in quantum computing than some individual global technology firms.
Since the UK cannot keep up with this pace of investment, a smart UK strategy will focus on areas where it already has deep expertise and strong momentum. One such field is quantum error correction and, more specifically, in tackling the ‘TeraQuop Challenge’.
A TeraQuop quantum computer is a computer that can execute one trillion (Tera) Quantum operations (Quops) before a single logical error occurs. This is comparable to several hundred error-free quantum operations on today’s fastest machines.
This TeraQuop threshold is important because it represents the scale at which quantum computers start to solve problems that no other supercomputer has been able to solve. In other words, tackling the TeraQuop Challenge helped get us to the point where quantum computers become useful.
To reach TeraQuop scale, improvements are needed in three layers of the quantum computing stack: quantum bits (qubits), quantum operating system (the middle layer that controls the qubits and corrects errors) and end-user applications.
The UK quantum strategy is focused on all three areas with a strong focus on end-user applications. This makes sense. The government’s return on investment will come when industry and consumers experience tangible benefits.
While investment in quantum applications is worth continuing, it means nothing if we don’t develop a quantum OS And qubit to run this application.
There are many proposed qubit technologies. We still don’t know which qubits will scale to the size a quantum computer needs to unlock the true potential of a quantum computer.
Quantum OS will work across different types of qubits. But it has to overcome the TeraQuop Challenge, being fast and accurate enough to control qubits and decode large amounts of information to make each qubit meaningful and live as long as possible.
This quantum OS requires a specialist chip and quantum expertise to run. This is also a layer of the quantum stack where the UK can lead thanks to our existing expertise in quantum computing and semiconductor chip technology.
Our rich ecosystem of top universities and quantum computing companies, backed over the last decade by $1+ billion in seed investment by the UK government (first country to do so), has resulted in most quantum technology start-ups in Europe.
In terms of semiconductor chip technology, operating a TeraQuop quantum computer requires electronic control, which can be scaled to control millions of qubits. This required the development of a dedicated semiconductor chip.
The UK already has a blueprint for how to lead the semiconductor industry. British chip design company Arm, which designs the chips and IP that power 90% of the world’s mobile devices, is a prime example of Britain’s success in a key part of the technology stack – engineering the chips that are the brains of computers. In the same vein, we can think of a quantum OS as a “quantum operating brain”.
Developing a quantum world OS in parallel with developing qubit layers is a smart bet. If one of these qubit approaches reaches millions of qubits, the UK has won twice. We have the qubit and OS layers necessary to build the world’s leading quantum computer.
It’s a future-proof strategy in which the UK can play to its unique strengths to enable and accelerate quantum computing anywhere.
Steve Brierley is the founder and CEO of a quantum engineering company riverlane.