The US and China have dominated the quantum sector — particularly when it comes to quantum hardware — and large corporations like IBM are nudging closer to reaching more milestones, such as unveiling the first universal quantum computer with more than 1,000 qubits, expected some time this year.
But European startup underdogs could still leapfrog them.
Last month, French quantum computing startup PASQAL raised €100m after achieving a "world first" — running a calculation where its quantum computer performed as well as a state-of-the-art classical computer.
Investors are keen to bolster Europe’s quantum sector. Last year, VC investment into quantum computing and processors more than doubled — from $105m in 2021 to $257m in 2022.
Europe even has a dedicated quantum fund from Paris-based VC firm Quantonation. And this February, Germany announced a new €1bn fund for deeptech and climate tech growth-stage companies, including quantum.
Which are the startups building quantum technologies? Sifted drew on Dealroom’s data to map out 147 startups and scaleups, which are all private and Europe-headquartered. We’re aware that the list will not be fully comprehensive, so please get in touch if you’re in quantum and aren’t featured.
Which country has the most quantum startups?
The UK has the most startups working on quantum technologies — 39 — followed by Germany with 18, and France and the Netherlands both with 15.
Of the 147 startups tracked by Dealroom that are working on quantum technologies, 60 are specifically looking into quantum computing.
While classical computers use binary “bits” that exist either as 0 or 1 to encode information, quantum computers use infinitely smaller quantum bits (called qubits) which can be both 0 or 1 at the same time. This means quantum computers can consider more combinations than classical computers so can calculate outcomes much faster. For problems so complicated that they could take conventional computers years (or potentially forever) to solve, quantum could unlock the answers.
Today’s quantum computers can, however, only perform calculations for a few seconds before the qubits encounter errors and break down. Some of the startups Sifted has mapped are trying to develop quantum computers, processors and software which don’t encounter these errors, by developing different qubits or better ways to scale.
The best funded quantum startups in Europe
Here are the eight European startups that have raised the most money so far.
IQM Quantum Computers
Last year, Finnish quantum computing hardware provider IQM raised a hefty €128m round, led by climate tech investor World Fund, cementing it as Europe’s best-funded quantum computing startup. Up against big US companies like IBM and Google, the startup is focused on quantum computer hardware.
While IQM’s cofounder and CEO Jan Goetz told Sifted he doesn’t believe quantum computing can solve the climate crisis on its own, he does believe it can help. One of the key potential applications is developing more efficient batteries to replace the combustion engine, by more accurately simulating the way chemical processes work at an atomic level.
McKinsey estimates that quantum computing could help develop technologies with the potential to abate seven gigatonnes of CO2 a year by 2035.
Another chunky round was raised this year by French startup PASQAL. The company landed €100m in January to scale its quantum processing technology.
The startup’s cofounder, Alain Aspect, won a Nobel prize for his work on how lasers can cool down atoms. This makes them stable enough to be useful as containers of quantum information (qubits).
PASQAL is now using this research to build a quantum processor using single atoms as the qubits, rather than making them out of superconducting materials that must be manufactured. This could solve one of the biggest challenges for quantum processors — scaling up the number of qubits that can be used to solve problems.
While IQM and PASQAL are focusing on developing the hardware for quantum computers, Swiss startup Terra Quantum offers quantum-as-a-service. At the start of last year, the company raised a $60m Series A to further develop quantum algorithms that can optimise portfolios of collateral investments.
The startup’s CEO Markus Pflitsch says that compared to classical approaches, Terra Quantum’s algorithm — which uses a hybrid approach that combines quantum and classical algorithms — was 10 times faster. The startup is also working on a pilot programme helping a logistics company optimise the routes of fleets of trucks, which could reduce CO2 emissions.
Oxford Quantum Circuits
Another quantum-as-a-service startup is Oxford Quantum Circuits. The company, whose quantum computers are commercially available via private cloud services or Amazon Braket (Amazon’s quantum computing service), raised a £38m Series A round last July.
Lucy — Oxford Quantum Circuits’ eight-qubit quantum computer, named after German quantum mechanics pioneer Lucy Mensing — debuted on Amazon Braket last February, making it the first European quantum company operating on Amazon Web Services. Businesses operating in areas such as finance, pharma and logistics can access Oxford Quantum Circuit’s computers.
Alice & Bob
Working on the fault problem, French startup Alice & Bob raised $30m last March to build a superconducting fault-tolerant "cat qubit" quantum computer. The startup named it after the thought experiment Schrödinger’s Cat as it illustrates the paradox of quantum superposition — where a quantum system can be in multiple states at the same time.
There are different types of qubits being developed, with superconducting qubits the most advanced so far. IBM and Google are also working on superconducting quantum technology.
Peptone — The Protein Intelligence Company
While many applications of quantum are yet to be realised, UK-based biotech Peptone uses artificial intelligence and quantum computing to power drug discovery. Last June, the company raised a $40m Series A, which it says it will use to build a research facility in Switzerland.
Another quantum software company that claims to have a ready-made application is Multiverse Computing. The Spanish startup says it's developing quantum software for “extreme ideas” across verticals including finance, energy, aerospace and chemistry. In December 2021, Multiverse Computing was awarded €12.5m in funding from European Innovation Council.
UK-based Oxford Ionics is another startup trying to help manufacture quantum computers at scale. It raised a £30m Series A round this January to build quantum processors using standard semiconductor chips.
Oxford Ionics works with trapped ion technology — which consists of “trapping” single atoms in place using an electromagnetic field. While developers of trapped ion quantum computers typically rely on expensive and complex laser systems to control the trapped ions, Oxford Ionics uses an electronic qubit control technology that can be integrated into a standard silicon chip. This allows the startup to manufacture its quantum processors at scale using existing manufacturing technology.