French startup Pascal has raised 100 million euros for its quantum computer

Pascal, a French startup founded by Nobel laureate in physics Alain Aspect, is one of Europe’s leading companies in quantum computing.

French startup Pascal, which just raised €100 million to accelerate quantum computing development, is looking to prove its industrial relevance in the still-embryonic field.

The transaction puts the startup, which counts among its co-founders the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics Alain Aspect, at the forefront of European companies in this sector.

Quantum computers are expected to revolutionize computing with enormous computing power compared to conventional machines.

Potential applications in industry, artificial intelligence (enhancing machine learning), finance, and even optimizing energy networks or transportation are huge.

In chemistry, they can perform extremely fine numerical simulations of new molecules. Researchers will no longer have to observe them and synthesize them to test interactions, for example to develop new drugs.

A long-overdue quantum computer

Currently, Pasqal is a startup with hundreds of employees who can count on the fingers the machines already built.

One of them is available online from May 2022 so that the first projects and use cases can be tested by developers.

Others are nearing completion, notably two deliveries planned in key intensive computing centers in France (Genji) and Germany (Jülich).

However, no quantum computer has yet been able to undeniably prove its superiority over a classical computer.

Georges-Olivier Raymond, CEO of Pasqal, says, “We are entering a new era where quantum computing is starting to be at the level of classical computing.”

So the young company, together with investment bank Crédit Agricole, is preparing to publish a scientific paper explaining how its quantum processor can handle the problem of calculating borrower risk for loans like a regular computer.

According to Georges-Olivier Raymond, with the money raised, the Massy (Paris region) startup plans to double its workforce within a year and build several dozen machines in the coming years.

“Quantum Supremacy”

The goal is to quickly increase the computing power to eventually beat the classic machine.

This “quantum advantage” “can be achieved within 1-3 years, depending on our luck or the optimism we have,” the leader explains.

IBM, one of the world’s leading groups in the quantum computer race, hopes to get there by 2024.

Google claimed “quantum supremacy” in 2019, saying its Sycamore processor performed a calculation in 3 minutes that would take a conventional supercomputer more than 10,000 years.

However, this claim later became controversial, especially since the calculation at the time served no other purpose than to achieve this victory.

The challenge for quantum computer makers is to be able to increase the number of quantum bits (also called qubits), the building blocks of a quantum processor.

1000 qubits soon

Based on the infinitesimal (rubidium atoms manipulated with lasers, in Pascal’s case), these qubits are also very unstable and very difficult to control, with increasing difficulty as we increase computer power.

Pascal, which will deliver 100-qubit machines to French and German computing centers, aims to get 1,000-qubit processors in the near future.

Georges-Olivier Raymond emphasizes: “For us, this is a bit of a magic number, and we believe that it will allow us to achieve a quantum advantage.”

Investors betting on Paschal are international funds such as Singapore’s sovereign fund Temasek, Saudi Arabia’s Wa’ed fund, a subsidiary of oil giant Aramco, or the European Union’s EIC fund and France’s Bpifrance and Innovation Défense funds.

Private European funds Daphni, Eni Next or Quantonation, a French quantum-related fund, also participate in the round table.

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