October 22, 2019 / 11:00 AM / a month ago

Samsung, UAE funds lead $55 mln investment in quantum computing startup

Oct 22 (Reuters) - U.S. quantum computing startup IonQ said on Tuesday it raised $55 million in a funding round that was led by venture funds backed by Samsung Electronics and the government of the United Arab Emirates.

With the investments from Samsung Catalyst Fund and Mubadala Capital, Maryland-based IonQ said its total funds raised to date reached $77 million. The company didn't disclose its valuation.

Researchers believe quantum computers could operate millions of times faster than today's advanced supercomputers, making potential tasks ranging from mapping complex molecular structures and chemical reactions to boosting the power of artificial intelligence possible.

Alphabet Inc's Google, International Business Machines Corp and Microsoft Corp have all either made investments or launched research projects around quantum computing.

IonQ already has 4 quantum computers, each the size of four regular refrigerators operating in Maryland, and rents out time on them to academics and businesses.

Unlike some of its competitors that need to keep the environment around the quantum computer at absolute zero, IonQ's computers operate in room temperature, said Chief Executive Officer Peter Chapman.

Chapman said most of IonQ's quantum computer parts are commonly available off-the-shelf, which helps to keep the cost down.

The high costs associated with building quantum computers, along with the cold environment they generally need, have been a challenge in making them a profitable business.

"I like to joke that Amazon delivers most of the parts for us," Chapman said.

The only custom part of IonQ's machine is a special chip that is made by an outside vendor. Chapman declined to name the vendor, but said the part is made with commonly available chip making technology.

Francis Ho, co-head of the Samsung Catalyst Fund, said Samsung, a major chipmaker itself, invested in part because it hopes to one day possibly supply parts for quantum computers. But Ho said Samsung could also be a large potential customer.

Around the world, governments are concerned about quantum computing because it could be used to break today's encryption technology.

Chapman said although the company does not yet have substantial revenue, there are customers and countries it will avoid doing business with, including China.

Quantum computing "is at a nation-state level. It's really the U.S. versus other countries who are busily trying to leapfrog the U.S. and its technical dominance," said Chapman. (Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

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