Quobly: Shaping the Future of Universal Quantum Computing Using Semiconductor Technology

Quobly: Shaping the Future of Universal Quantum Computing Using Semiconductor Technology

While quantum computers hold immense promise, their computational power is currently limited by their qubit counts. And for solving tough computational problems, they are up against supercomputers with billions of transistors.

Semiconductor technology made it possible for chips to scale to such a large number of transistors—perhaps it could also help quantum computers scale from tens or hundreds of qubits currently to millions of qubits eventually, becoming powerful enough to offer an actual advantage over supercomputers. Some companies are already exploring this, and initial research looks promising.

Quobly was founded in late 2022 by Maud VinetTristan Meunier, and Francois Perruchot to pursue that vision. It’s a spin-off from the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA, Commissariat à l’énergie atomique et aux énergies alternatives”) and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (Centre national de la recherche scientifique, CNRS) in Grenoble.

Qobly recently raised a funding round of €19M led by QuantonationBpifrance through the Deep Tech 2030 fund managed on behalf of the State as part of France 2030, Supernova Invest, and Innovacom. On that occasion, the startup changed its name from Siquance to Quobly, a compression of Quantum and Grenoble, to embody the strong link between quantum and the semiconductor industry present in the Grenoble region.

Learn more about the future of universal quantum computing using semiconductor technology from our interview with the co-founder and CEO, Maud Vinet

Why Did You Start Quobly?

As a kid, I loved to engineer and build things—and better understand how they work. This eventually led me to study physics. For my Ph.D., I got into fundamental research, using scanning tunnel spectroscopy to investigate superconductivity, before returning to applied research and technology R&D in the semiconductor industry. I have that drive to do things with impact. 

After spending many years in the semiconductor industry, I headed the Quantum Program at CEA Leti.  Given 15 years of research, I thought we had many ingredients to build a quantum computer and that my job was to bring all of them together—and that by connecting people and technologies that hadn’t previously thought of each other, we could make it happen. Seeing all of this potential, founding Quobly was the next logical step.

Since our founding in late 2022, we have received great support from CEA and CNRS and gathered a great team passionate about building universal quantum computers using semiconductor technology. We’re on a mission to shape a better digital future.

There is really great support for quantum computing in France through France Quantum and the Plan Quantique. These initiatives aim to integrate research, education, and technology commercialization for the advancement of quantum computing.

How Do You Build Quantum Computers Leveraging Semiconductor Technology?

Silicon was key to classical computer technology. Just think about the smartphone in your pocket: it’s small yet powerful enough to load all these applications because it has chips with billions of transistors that provide the computing power. That’s more transistors than any of us can imagine.

Silicon has made it possible to fit an unimaginably large number of transistors on a chip the size of a thumbnail, and the question is: Can it do the same for quantum computing? Using technologies that have already proven they can scale can give us a way not only to make high-quality, fast, small qubits but also to put many of them on a chip and control and program them—as we have done with traditional integrated circuits.

But transistors and qubits are obviously different—and qubits typically operate at extremely low temperatures. With Quobly, we bridge this gap between conventional semiconductor technologies and their applicability in building quantum computers.

In 2016, we were the first team in the world to demonstrate that we can build a qubit of electrons trapped in a quantum dot in silicon—called a silicon spin qubit—using quasi-industrial technologies and a semi-industrial clean room. At its core, the demo relied on a technique called Fully Depleted Silicon On Insulator (FD-SOI), whose development my team had led in Europe.

After this initial proof-of-concept, we developed cryo-electronics to control our qubits and demonstrated the integration of these cryo-control electronics with the quantum dots on the same silicon chip. We developed more than 40 patents and eventually demonstrated state-of-the-art qubits that we can control on the chip.

For years, teams have been trying to make quantum computers good enough to compete with supercomputers and actually be useful. After all this research and development, I see the pace of innovation picking up and possibly reaching a critical mass that will lead to a breakthrough. It’s no longer just about physicists and basic research but also about engineers making it happen. We need to keep the ball rolling and get more people involved—that’s why we’re working with many other industry players. 

It takes about ten years for a new computing technology to be introduced—think multicores. So in the next ten years, we could see useful niche quantum computers that are useful for solving very specific problems, such as drug development or traffic optimization. Early use of quantum computers, even if they are only niche applications, is very important to give credibility to the industry. This will also allow people to continue to focus on the long-term perspective. 

How Did You Evaluate Your Startup Idea?

Our goal is to enable large-scale quantum computing, producing chips with millions of qubits and achieving fault-tolerant quantum computing. Therefore we engaged a lot with end users and learned about their computational problems and the limitations of classical computers to determine how we could help.

We also worked a lot with Ph.D. students in academia and software startups to see how we could implement quantum algorithms and so make sure that the hardware meets the expectations. This is not just about business but also a lot about personal relationships: collaborations in quantum computing are long-term, so you better get along! 

What Advice Would You Give Fellow Deep Tech Founders?

I must stress that we were very well supported by our host institutions, especially CEA start-up teams. A lot of things you have to think of were painless for us—logo, naming, rehearsal for pitch decks, and so on. 

As a first-time entrepreneur discovering the world of venture capital, I would have loved some mentoring on market standards and best practices. Learning about different financial instruments for investment, but also specific things like “what happens when you sell” clauses, is important. Don’t leave it to your investors to teach you market practices.

A great network is The Galion Project connecting European founders, which was created in 2015 by Jean-Baptiste Rudelle, one of the co-founders of Criteo, the first French unicorn.

Further Reading

Quobly Secures €19 Million in Funding to Propel Development of Fault-Tolerant Quantum Computer – Press release by The Quantum Insider

New French Start-Up Siquance Targets Commercial Quantum Computing – Press release about the founding of Siquance in December 2022 on The Quantum Insider

12 quantum startups to watch in Europe, according to investors – Quobly (formerly Siquance) is among them, as featured by Sifted

How Grenoble has mastered industry–academia science collaborations – Nature journal article on the Grenoble technology scene, of which Quobly (formerly Siquance) is a part