Phasecraft raises £13 million in Series A funding round

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Phasecraft, a UK start-up developing quantum algorithms, has completed a £13 million Series A funding round.

The round was led by Silicon Valley deeptech VC, Playground Global. AlbionVC also joined the round along with participation from existing investors Episode1, Parkwalk Advisors, LCIF, and UCL Technology Fund.

Founded in 2019 as a spinout from UCL and the University of Bristol by Professors Ashley Montanaro (CEO), Toby Cubitt (CTO and Chief Science Officer) and John Morton, Phasecraft said that it will use this funding to further develop its quantum algorithms. The aim is to reach practical quantum advantage, when quantum computers outperform classical computers for useful real-world applications like developing new materials.

While quantum computing looks set to revolutionise how we address complex problems, today’s noisy and unstable quantum computers (known as Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum, or NISQ, devices) aren’t capable of running the algorithms that currently exist to solve them.

Significant recent investment in hardware has seen big increases in capacity, but the algorithms needed to harness these advances have remained largely theoretical – to date, no algorithms have been run on a quantum computer to solve a problem of genuine practical interest.

Phasecraft is aiming to bridge this gap by radically reimagining how such quantum algorithms are designed. Its algorithms are based on insights from theoretical physics and computer science, coupled with knowledge gained from extensive numerical simulations and a deep understanding of quantum hardware. This helps the company to develop algorithms with significantly superior computational efficiency compared to others in existence, whilst their partnerships with the three most advanced superconducting quantum hardware providers in the world, Google, IBM and Rigetti – the only quantum algorithms company to work with all three – help put these algorithms to work in the real world.

The company to date has published 17 scientific papers, with results including reducing the complexity of simulating the time-evolution of a quantum materials system by 400,000x, running the largest-ever simulation of a materials system on actual hardware by 10x, and proving for the first time ever that quantum optimisation algorithms can outperform classical ones.

Phasecraft’s early focus is on applying these algorithmic improvements to the discovery of new materials important for the clean energy transition. Classical computing fails to capture many of these materials’ fundamental features, meaning the was rely on experimental discovery which can take decades.

Quantum computing promises to accelerate the entire process by capturing these features computationally, thus reducing the number of experiments required and drastically increasing the variety of material combinations which can be tested for any given use case.

Phasecraft has already developed a software pipeline which delivers an improvement of 1,000,000x or more in modelling real materials compared with the best previous quantum algorithms, bringing the number of operations required to model a material down to around 80,000 and within touching distance of existing hardware capability. Its work is also informed by industry partnerships including speciality materials developer Johnson Matthey and solar cell developer Oxford PV.

To date, Phasecraft has hired some of the world’s leading quantum scientists, and recently hired computational chemistry and materials science expert Glenn Jones, former head of computational modelling at Johnson Matthey, to lead its materials work.

The new funding brings the total raised by Phasecraft to £17.25m in venture funding, as well as a further £3.75m in grant funding from the likes of Innovate UK and the European Research Council, which will be used to continue building the team of world-leading quantum scientists, researchers and engineers and to further establish Phasecraft as the world leader in quantum algorithms.

Ashley Montanaro, co-founder and CEO of Phasecraft, said: “For all the advances that have been made in quantum hardware, and for all quantum computing’s promise, such progress could end up being for nothing if we can’t build the applications needed to make the technology truly useful. With our record-breaking algorithms and groundbreaking techniques, we are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in this space. With support from such a renowned deep-tech visionary as Playground, we think practical quantum advantage is achievable in years, not decades.”