Innovate UK is pumping an initial £500k funding into a Cambridge-California project to tackle syndrome extraction on superconducting quantum computers.

Cambridge’s Riverlane, the quantum engineering company building the world’s first operating system for error corrected quantum computing, and California’s Rigetti – a pioneer in hybrid quantum-classical computing – are partners in the project.

Syndrome extraction is a crucial step in quantum error correction, the greatest challenge to be solved to develop useful quantum computers that can process more data with far greater accuracy than is possible today. Useful quantum computers can unlock previously impossible scientific possibilities and transform a range of vital industries, including healthcare, sustainable energy and advanced materials.

Quantum computers use quantum bits, or qubits, that mirror the true quantum mechanical complexity of the subatomic world in a way that classical computers simply can’t.

But qubits are by their nature unstable due to high sensitivity to disturbance from the external environment and thus prone to data errors. Applying error correction techniques means measuring qubits’ status and correcting possible errors at unprecedented speed and volume.

The challenge is exacerbated because these steps can also introduce further errors.

Quantum mechanics forbids direct measurement of the main qubits doing the actual computation as this would destroy the information they carry. Error correction techniques thus use additional qubits, called ‘syndrome qubits’, and measure their status, called syndromes, to infer the occurrence of errors on the main qubits.

Riverlane and Rigetti will work together to minimise the errors introduced during syndrome extraction on a top-class superconducting quantum computer.

Steve Brierley, founder and CEO of Riverlane, said:

“Some problems are quantum mechanical in nature so can only be solved by using a quantum computer. Quantum computers thus offer an opportunity to progress science in many fields from an Age of Discovery through extensive trial and error to an Age of Design where all possibilities can be simulated. Error correction is one of the keys to unlocking this future. We’re delighted to partner with Rigetti, and hungry to solve error correction for the entire industry.”

Chad Rigetti, founder and CEO of Rigetti Computing, added:

“Tackling error correction requires partners who understand the full quantum stack. We are excited to combine our quantum hardware knowledge with Riverlane’s software capabilities to solve this critical challenge and accelerate the quantum computing industry’s progress.”