Quantum startup Photonic raises $137 million CAD, strikes strategic partnership with Microsoft

Photonic co-founder Stephanie Simmons holding a chip in her raised hand. She is smiling and appears to be in some kind of workshop.
Photonic co-founder and chief quantum officer Stephanie Simmons.
Photonic has an “audacious” five-year plan to build a fault-tolerant quantum computing platform.

Quantum startup Photonic has raised a $137-million CAD ($100 million USD) funding round from a pool of investors that includes new strategic partner Microsoft.

“While [five years] is an audacious target, we believe our architecture is uniquely positioned to reduce the world’s time horizon to practical and useful quantum computing and quantum networking.”
– Paul Terry,
Photonic CEO.

In addition to Microsoft’s investment, the funding round also saw participation from the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, the United Kingdom’s National Security Strategic Investment Fund, Inovia Capital, and Amadeus Capital Partners also participated in the round. Photonic said it has raised $193 million CAD ($140 million USD) to date.

Photonic’s partnership with Microsoft, also announced Wednesday, will see the companies work together to create and offer technology that can send quantum information safely over long distances. The partnership will also make Photonic’s quantum computing services available through Microsoft’s Azure Quantum Elements platform.

“Our strategic collaboration with Microsoft will enable us together to accelerate the pursuit of quantum at scale,” Photonic’s co-founder and chief quantum officer, Stephanie Simmons, said in a statement. “Microsoft is the perfect partner for Photonic, enabling us to tap into global infrastructure, proven platforms, and the tremendous scale of Microsoft Azure.”

Photonic was founded in 2016 by Simmons, who is also a co-chair of Canada’s National Quantum Strategy Advisory Board, and Michael Thewalt, a physics professor at Simon Fraser University. Since its founding, the company has been quietly working to make a fault-tolerant quantum computer a reality.

Photonic aims to create reliable quantum technology that can avoid errors by using a special link between silicon spins and light. This method uses the storage and processing power of spins together with the linking ability of light-based technology to help build one of the first quantum computers that can scale up, resist mistakes, and connect over networks.

“We believe we have correctly identified the breakthrough that will allow us to offer a scalable, distributed, and fault-tolerant solution within five years, significantly ahead of industry expectations,” Photonic CEO Paul Terry said in a statement. “While that is an audacious target, we believe our architecture is uniquely positioned to reduce the world’s time horizon to practical and useful quantum computing and quantum networking.”

The company believes that designing and manufacturing large-scale, fault-tolerant quantum computers has the potential to transform a number of industries, including material discovery, computational chemistry, drug development, and communications.

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Microsoft said it would address the three stages of quantum networking through its strategic partnership with Photonic: a physical layer, a link layer, and a network layer.

A physical layer would entangle two quantum devices through telecom fiber, while a link layer is a “never-before demonstrated quantum repeater” that can hold quantum information for a short time. This is meant to culminate in a network layer operating through Microsoft’s Azure cloud, delivering full-scale, global quantum internet.

“There is an opportunity to ignite new capabilities across the quantum ecosystem extending beyond computing,” said Microsoft’s executive vice president of strategic missions and technologies, Jason Zander, in a statement. “The capabilities we aim to deliver together with Photonic can enable this vision and bring about quantum’s impact far more quickly than otherwise possible.”

Photonic said it is currently hiring engineers and technicians to join its over 120 employees across Canada, the United States, the UK, and Europe.

Feature image courtesy Photonic via its website.

Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl

Alex Riehl is a staff writer and newsletter curator at BetaKit with a Bachelor of Journalism from Carleton University. He's interested in tech, gaming, and sports. You can find out more about him at alexriehl.com or @RiehlAlex99 on Twitter.

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