Strategic partnerships give quantum technologies a boost

November 10, 2023

SFU Physics professor Stephanie Simmons’ dream of a quantum internet is closer to becoming a reality thanks to new funding and a strategic collaboration with Microsoft.

Simmons founded the company, Photonic Inc. where she serves as the Chief Quantum Officer. This week, Photonic announced  that it has raised $100 million USD in investments from organizations including British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI), Microsoft Corporation, the UK government’s National Security Strategic Investment Fund (NSSIF), Inovia Capital, and Amadeus Capital Partners.

The company has also entered into a strategic collaboration with Microsoft to develop technologies and products that can enable reliable quantum communications over long distances, and leverage Microsoft’s Azure cloud computing network to make quantum computing more accessible.

“This strategic collaboration with Microsoft catapults forward our efforts to accelerate the arrival of truly useful, scalable and practical quantum technologies,” Simmons says. “Pairing our unique architecture with Microsoft Azure will enable quantum computers to be linked using quantum networking capabilities and made accessible via everyday operating environments.”

Quantum computing has enormous potential to provide computing power well beyond the capabilities of today’s supercomputers. In the future this could enable advances in many other fields, including chemistry, materials science, medicine and cybersecurity.

Photonic’s spin-photon architecture builds on research conducted at SFU’s Silicon Quantum Technology Lab. The team’s research, published last year in Nature, described observations of silicon ‘T centre’ photon-spin qubits for the first time.

As Simmons explains, silicon has many advantages for quantum computing. It is not only an ideal material to produce stable, high-performance qubits for quantum computers, it can also emit photons (light) in the same band used in data centres and fiber networks, allowing these qubits to be networked together.

“Photonic and Microsoft share a vision of the world evolving to a place where quantum supercomputers enable quantum services that companies, universities, and governments access to solve the most impactful problems that even today’s most powerful classical supercomputers cannot crack,” Simmons says.

Simmons is a Tier 2 Canada Research Chair of Quantum Nanoelectronics and Co-chair of Canada’s National Quantum Strategy Advisory Board. Last fall, she was recognized with a prestigious Arthur B. McDonald Fellowship, one of only six awarded nationally. Simmons works collaboratively with the Quantum Algorithms Institute (QAI), hosted at SFU’s Surrey campus. She was also recently appointed to the Council of Canadian Academies Expert Panel on Quantum Technologies.