Silicon Quantum Computing has raised $50 million in a Series A round that it says underscores a growing confidence in both the company and wider quantum computing sector, despite having originally sought to raise more than twice that amount in mid-2022.
The funding round announced on Tuesday will get the quantum hardware manufacturing company to its next technical milestones, including building a logical qubit in silicon, according to SQC, which has the ultimate goal to create the world’s first scalable, error corrected quantum computer.
The Australian government is understood to have contributed $15 million to the round, retaining its near one-third ownership after putting $25 million into the 2017 seed raise.
Silicon Quantum Computing had originally sought $130 million in the round. But with the venture capital market softening, the company was not willing to part with more equity at a lower valuation, according to founder Professor Michelle Simmons.
“Clearly venture capital at the moment is just a lot more expensive,” she told InnovationAus.com. “If we were to have closed at a higher value, we would have had to give away more of the company, and the existing shareholders obviously thought the company is too valuable to give away.
“So we turned around and decided to raise enough capital to let us get those next technical milestones. [This] will hopefully give us another up-value round.”
Professor Simmons, a former Australian of the Year and the 2022 Bakerian Medalist, said the company had been independently valued at $195.3 million after the latest round.
The funding injection, which includes returning investors like the Australian government, the Commonwealth Bank, Telstra and the University of New South Wales will go to creating the world’s first logical qubit in silicon.
It is the next step in the company’s technical roadmap and follows SQC creating the world’s first integrated circuit manufactured at an atomic scale last year.
“The logical qubit is the next kind of big technical milestone on that roadmap,” Professor Simmons said. “Obviously then finding commercial applications is another milestone that is separate from that.
“You can get commercial applications, certainly in the analogue simulation space, which don’t require error correction. And that’s also one of the things that we’re going to be pursuing in the company.”
A change in policy preventing equity investments meant the New South Wales government did not return for the Series A round, the company said.
In some ways, Australia is catching on to what the global quantum community has long recognised, Professor Simmons said.
“One of the funny things for me was that globally, Australia has been well known to be a leader in quantum technologies for a long time. So the rest of the world certainly has known about us,” she said.
“I think with the new chief scientist, and now with [Industry] Minister [Ed] Husic, they’ve really raised the profile of quantum in Australia.”
The new leaders have also brought a new Industry Growth Program for commercialising firms like SQC and up to $1 billion in support when they start making a return through the National Reconstruction Fund.
Professor Simmons said the new approach is a welcome one that recognises support is needed at various levels of technology readiness. It also backs founders to create companies of value in Australia and keep them here, she said.
“Being able to manufacture something that is a high end product here in Australia for direct use in Australia – and thereby not giving away the IP overseas and not losing the companies overseas – is quite critical,” she said.
“So I think this is a tremendous boost for Australian industry in this space to be able to have companies here, headquartered here in Australia and manufacturing here in Australia …. Gone are the days of thinking cheap mass scale manufacturing. We’re talking high-end products with highly trained engineers, and Australia just has that in abundance.”
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