Phasecraft raises £13 million to become first to reach practical quantum advantage
Phasecraft, a startup led by top academics developing quantum algorithms, has raised a £13 million Series A funding round 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, each of whom has been at the cutting edge of quantum computing research for 20 years, Phasecraft will use this funding to further develop its quantum algorithms to the point of practical quantum advantage – when quantum computers outperform classical computers for useful real-world applications like developing new materials.
Bridging the gap between theory and reality
Quantum computing promises to revolutionise the way humanity tackles its most complex problems. However, the noisy and unstable quantum computers of today (known as Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum, or NISQ, devices) aren’t capable of running the algorithms that currently exist to solve them. Based on the best quantum algorithms known prior to Phasecraft’s founding, a useful calculation like simulating and discovering a new battery material would require billions of operations on a quantum computer – today’s best-performing hardware can perform at most thousands. Significant recent investment in such hardware has seen it soar 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 bridging this gap by radically reimagining how such quantum algorithms are designed. Its algorithms are based on novel insights from theoretical physics and computer science, coupled with knowledge gained from extensive numerical simulations and a deep understanding of quantum hardware. This helps them develop record-breaking 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 we 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.
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. Entrepreneur and investor Ian Hogarth, recently appointed chair of the UK’s AI Foundational Model Taskforce, is Chairman of the Board.
The new funding brings the total raised by Phasecraft to £17.25 million in venture funding, as well as a further £3.75 million 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.”
Peter Barrett, General Partner, Playground Global: “Phasecraft's team of world-class quantum scientists and engineers bring an unmatched expertise and a fresh perspective to one of the biggest challenges facing our quantum future – bridging the gap between quantum hardware capacity and real-world applications. At Playground, we've always believed that unlocking quantum's potential requires a very special, dedicated and experienced team and we believe Phasecraft is uniquely positioned to help deliver our quantum future.”