By Chad Rigetti
Creating value in the NISQ era of quantum computing will come from three key fronts. First is reliable production of high-quality quantum processor chips. Doing this well at this stage of the industry requires a very tight coupling between design, fab, and test capabilities. This is why we built our own fab, the world’s first dedicated quantum chip manufacturing facility. Fab-1 allows us to run rapid iteration process development through frequent wafer starts and short cycle times of just several weeks. It has already driven our chip performance and scaling to be competitive with far bigger players while doing it with greater speed and capital efficiency than others in the industry. This has shown us just how important tight vertical integration is when pioneering hard technology.
Second, in order to make commercially useful machines, quantum chips need to be tightly integrated with classical computing. We invented and pioneered integrated quantum-classical computing to solve this problem, and we continue to push the boundaries in pursuit of the world’s most powerful computers. Our integrated architecture — and the fast clock cycle times that are possible with superconducting qubits relative to ion traps or photonics, for example — is essential to running realistic and practical quantum algorithms, like the variational quantum eigensolver (VQE) for chemistry or the quantum approximate optimization algorithm (QAOA) for optimization problems.
Another critical aspect of delivering value in the NISQ era is not an internal activity but an external one: working with customers and partners to identify quantum-accelerable problems and learning how to represent and efficiently encode those problems on today’s quantum computers. Doing this is very hard. It bridges not just science and technology fields, but also business domains and organizational boundaries.
In the past few years, we’ve seen a cohort of excellent software and applications companies join the quantum computing landscape to help meet this challenge. Many of these companies have built on top of our platform and their insights have helped us continually improve performance. One of the leaders in this space is QxBranch, a data analytics and software startup that has been working directly with customers to build and test quantum applications since 2015.
As it has proved to be for fab, we expect tight vertical integration at this application layer to be especially important in the NISQ era. That’s why I’m thrilled to announce that Rigetti has acquired QxBranch. This acquisition combines QxBranch’s leadership in customer-facing application development with Rigetti’s leading hardware and software stack. By joining forces we tighten the feedback loop in both directions and accelerate progress towards quantum advantage.
I first met Michael Brett, Ray Johnson and the rest of the QxBranch founding team in January 2015. There were only a couple quantum startups then, and I was thrilled to get to know them and understand their vision. We all spoke about the exciting but long journey ahead for quantum computing. They shared their view on building a business to pioneer quantum applications even as early hardware platforms had yet to emerge.
Since then, QxBranch has established a strong track record of building machine learning and optimization applications for customers in finance, materials science, energy, and government. In 2018, when we released the first cloud platform for hybrid quantum-classical computing, QxBranch was one of our anchor developer partners.
Now, QxBranch will form the foundation of our applications team. This makes our technology better for everyone — including our developer partners — and encourages further innovation among all players in the ecosystem. On behalf of everyone at the company, I’m thrilled to welcome Michael, Ray, and the entire QxBranch team to Rigetti and to embark on this next stage of the quantum industry together.