If there’s an emoji that perfectly encapsulates quantum computing, it’s the exploding head.
Consider, for example, that the temperature of most quantum processing chips must be kept as close to absolute zero (roughly -460 degrees Fahrenheit) as possible. Or that some physicists think quantum computing is “the first technology that allows useful tasks to be performed in collaboration between parallel universes.” Or that a quantum computer “made history go backward.” True, it was only a simulation, but still — mind blowing stuff.
Classical computers operate using binary bits, storing data and running processes using ones and zeroes. Quantum computers, however, run on multi-state components called qubits, which can reach the “superposition” of essentially being both one and zero while also “entangling” in combined states. In lay terms, that means quantum computers can do lots of things typical computers can’t, including crunching massive amounts of complex information faster and simulating water molecules.
Top Quantum Computing Companies
- Zapata Computing
- QC Ware
- D-Wave Systems
- Atom Computing
At this point, imagining quantum computing applications is a bit like daydreaming about Christmas in May: there’s plenty of anticipation and even wonder, but the big day itself remains a long way off.
An increasing number of companies are trying to close the gap between present and future. When quantum computing is perfected, it will transform a host of industries.
Check out these 20 quantum computing companies working toward quantum-computing breakthroughs.
Quantum Computing Companies to Know
Location: Boulder, Colorado
While you can’t exactly hit up TaskRabbit when your quantum computer needs help, service and product support are must-haves for developers. ColdQuanta manufactures various quantum components like vacuum systems and processors to keep atoms brutally cold, which aids the all-important work of cutting down qubit motion and noise.
Location: Berkeley, California
When XPRIZE founder Peter Diamandis listed what he believes to be the three “major players” in the push toward quantum supremacy in America, he named Google and IBM and one startup: Rigetti Computing. Rigetti announced the public beta of its Quantum Cloud Services platform in 2019, which the company calls the first cloud service powered by quantum computing.
Location: College Park, Maryland.
It’s tempting to reduce quantum computing to a simple numbers game, namely number of total qubits. The truth is, you have to consider qubit quality rather than mere quantity. Still, when IonQ last year bested the qubit counts of IBM (50) and Google (72) with its 160-qubit processor, jaws dropped. Whereas most QC companies employ superconductors, IonQ is pioneering the trapped-ion method through which ions are isolated in a vacuum chamber and subatomic particles are cooled via lasers, eliminating the need for the gigantic copper-looking contraptions that are common to quantum computers.
Location: Armonk, New York
Most quantum computing developers are pursuing the universal gate model, rather than, say, annealers. The gate model puts qubits into circuits, not unlike traditional ones-and-zeros bits, via superconducting. Tech mainstay IBM is a leader in this lane, having developed at least eight gate-model prototypes, one as high as 50 qubits. IBM unveiled the Q System One, a step forward for stability and commercial research. It partnered with Exxon Mobil to work on a network that could lead to innovations in predictive climate models and electric grid management.
Location: New Haven, Connecticut
Founded by three veterans of Yale’s applied physics department, Quantum Circuits unveiled its testing facility in 2019. The cofounders are considered trailblazers in quantum computing with superconducting circuits, and the company is illustrative of the science-meeting-tech, academia-meeting-big-business cross-pollination that marks the quest for quantum supremacy.
Location: Santa Clara, California
Venerable processor-maker Intel has been seriously exploring quantum computing since at least 2015, when it partnered with leading Dutch research group QuTech. Among its contributions to the cause: a first-of-kind QC testing device, dubbed a cryoprober. The tool purportedly can (relatively) quickly measure qubit characteristics even at the hundreds-below-zero temperatures often required for qubit stabilization, speeding up a process that once took days just to gather small amounts of data. As for the long term, according to its director of quantum hardware, Intel is eyeing nothing less than a million-qubit system — the number at which truly transformational power will occur.
Location: Mountain View, California
The still-theoretical concept of “quantum supremacy” describes the power of quantum computers to perform tasks that classical computers can't, but it’s also extremely difficult to achieve. Some developers claim its arrival is imminent; others say it’s several years away. Google’s Research wing, which has partnered with NASA to win the great quantum supremacy races, appears to be in the former camp. Hartmut Neven, director of the tech giant’s Quantum Artificial Intelligence lab, told Quanta that quantum computers are growing “doubly exponential” where “it looks like nothing is happening, nothing is happening, and then whoops, suddenly you’re in a different world.”
Location: Redmond, Washington
While most quantum-computing research hitches its qubits to the superconductor/solid-state wagon or, to a lesser degree, trapped ions, Microsoft rolls along a third route: topological qubits. These qubits would sidestep so many pesky stability requisites by splitting an electron — essentially, double anti-interference protection — and exhibiting two ground states (a.k.a. ground state degeneracy). We say “would,” however, because the process still remains strictly theoretical.
Location: New York, New York
Toshiba’s Key Distribution program is working to solve security problems that quantum computers could potentially bring about. Toshiba’s quantum cryptography solutions have been in the works since 2003, when the company invested time at the Cambridge Research Laboratory of Toshiba Research Europe Limited. According to its website, Toshiba’s quantum key distribution was the first to reach over 100 kilometer of fiber as well as the first company exceeding 1 Mbit per second with a continuous key rate.
Location: Broomfield, Colorado
Quantinuum was formed by the merger between Honeywell Quantum Solutions and Cambridge Quantum. The company offers solutions for cybersecurity, natural language processing and machine learning. It also offers research partnerships that allow customers to access quantum computers. Some organizations Quantinuum has partnered with include Samsung, Nipton Steel and BMW.
Location: Berkely, California
As its name hints, Atom Computing uses qubits made from neutral atoms, described by Science as a “dark horse candidate” in the quantum-computing field. Backed by at least $5 million in venture capital and founded by Benjamin Bloom, a former senior quantum engineer at Rigetti and member of the team that “smashed” the atomic clock record, Atom hopes its novel approach will lead to scalable beyond-supercomputers that advance pharmaceutical research, computational chemistry and more
Location: Palo Alto, California
A developer of enterprise software for quantum computers, QC Ware counts Citi and Goldman Sachs among its investors. It has also teamed with a number of other outfits, including D-Wave, IBM and, perhaps most notably, Google, whose open-source quantum interface Cirq was recently integrated into QC Ware’s cloud service.
Location: Austin, Texas
William Hurley, the serial entrepreneur who heads up Strangeworks, is a serious quantum enthusiast. And his company completed a $4 million seed round in 2018, while eyeing a near-term goal of launching quantum-application subscription services for the aerospace, energy, pharmaceutical and finance industries.
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Zapata Computing uses technology developed at Harvard University and is building quantum software platforms with big-fish enterprise companies in mind. According to Forbes, Zapata is making virtual chemistry, machine learning and optimization its first-wave QC focal points.
Location: Burnaby, British Columbia
The quantum annealing process aims to return the lowest possible energy solutions by focusing mostly on questions of optimization. D-Wave Systems — which is targeting 500-qubit processors with Pegasus — is most synonymous with this approach. But is it actually quantum? Not really, some critics say. It doesn’t operate on the gate model, which means Pegasus’ ultra-high qubit rate isn’t really all that comparable to almost all of D-Wave’s contemporaries. Still, its hybrid software developments could very well help advance QC's thorny question of scalability.
Location: Berkeley, California
The exponential boost in data-processing power that quantum computing holds over classical computing opens the door for a quantum leap in pharmaceutical research. Bleximo has singled out QC-enabled medical development as its first practical goal. To that end, the company is trying to develop what it calls “quantum accelerator,” essentially quantum-based computational systems designed for a single, specific application, its narrower use being a tradeoff for greater performance.
Location: Vancouver, British Columbia
On the topic of pharma research, 1QBit made waves when it partnered with two major players: tech consultants Accenture and biotech multinational Biogen. The ultimate goal is to use quantum computing to create a molecular modeling application, which in turn could lead to breakthroughs in drug development to treat neurodegenerative conditions like dementia. The early-entry quantum company, founded in 2012, also teamed with Dow Chemical Company in 2017 to explore how nature-simulating QC might propel materials science.
Location: Toronto, Ontario
Xanadu is a startup notable for exploring photonic quantum computing, which uses the quantum properties of light particles to run. The company released free, open-source software that basically lets anyone run commands on publicly accessible, cloud-based quantum computers, like the IBM Q Experience or the University of Bristol’s Quantum in the Cloud — part of a wider push to familiarize enthusiasts with QC operational basics.
Location: Waterloo, Ontario
ISARA has emerged as a frontrunner working to solve the issues that quantum computing might cause for RSA security encryption. The company is working to develop security systems that essentially allow communication between classical and quantum algorithms. RSA security encryption relies on prime numbers to secure your information. More specifically, it relies on the fact that prime factorization of large numbers is prohibitively time-consuming for would-be hackers. But if a quantum computer powerful enough to run Shor’s factorization algorithm ever came along, all that security essentially vanishes.
Location: Toronto, Ontario
A Rigetti partner, ProteinQure uses quantum computing and machine learning to computer-simulate designs for protein-based drugs. According to its website, ProteinQure has partnerships with top pharma companies. The company specializes in small proteins striving to have applications across all major disease indications.