Yale and New Haven solidified their leading role in the development of the quantum computer on Jan. 24, as University startup Quantum Circuits Inc. celebrated the official ribbon-cutting ceremony of its new headquarters.

Newly elected Gov. Ned Lamont SOM ’80, Yale Vice Provost for Research Peter Schiffer, Mayor Toni Harp and other city and business officials joined the Quantum Circuits team to commemorate the opening of the 6,000 square-foot facility, which boasts state-of-the-art laboratories and in-house capabilities to manufacture their technologies, in New Haven. The company was founded by chief scientist Robert Schoelkopf, a Sterling professor of applied physics and physics, along with Michel Devoret, a professor of applied physics and physics, and Luigi Frunzio, a senior research scientist in applied physics.

“We have already seen the power of combining fundamental scientific understanding with the multidisciplinary engineering team that we are building at [Quantum Circuits Inc.],” Schoelkopf said in a speech at the ceremony. “These new facilities will enable us to accelerate our development efforts and ensure that New Haven is at the forefront of the new wave of quantum information processing.”

Quantum Circuits is working to develop the first practical quantum computers, which have the potential to make calculations “orders of magnitudes faster and more powerful than today’s supercomputers,” according to the company. Members of Quantum Circuits did not respond to requests for comment.

While classical computers work in binary with ones and zeros, a quantum computer is capable of using ones, zeros and combinations, or “superpositions” of ones and zeros, allowing the product to process a vast number of calculations simultaneously. Its application could be used to revolutionize science, medicine, drug creation, artificial intelligence and energy, according to IBM.

The field has attracted large investments from all over the world. As part of its five-year plan introduced in 2013, China is investing $10 to $20 billion in quantum computing research. In addition, the U.S. federal government has authorized investments of over $1 billion over the next few years as part of the National Quantum Initiative Act of 2018.

In 2017, Quantum Circuits raised $18 million in financing from venture capital firms Canaan Partners and Sequoia to build and sell the first practical and useful quantum computers. Despite massive investment and progress in the field, quantum computers have difficulty storing information in their system for a short amount of time — which leads to errors in calculations stemming from this short “coherence time.” Scientists at Quantum Circuits and beyond are working to address the issue, and Schoelkopf has been a key researcher working to solve it.

Schoelkopf is one of the inventors of “superconducting circuits,” a method in which qubits — the basic unit of quantum computing — are constructed from materials that exhibit quantum properties when cooled to extremely low temperatures. This technique has allowed for “Schoelkopf’s Law,” that roughly every three years, researchers can increase the amount of time that information can be stored by a factor of 10.

Quantum Circuits is racing against big-name companies like Google, IBM, Intel and Microsoft to create the first practical quantum computer, though these companies are using methods pioneered by Schoelkopf and his team. While Quantum Circuits may not be as large as such companies, New Haven is looking to support them in any way it can.

“Quantum computing research is one of the huge growth areas in the economy right now, both in New Haven and internationally, and we as a city very much want to be a part of it,” New Haven Deputy Director of Economic Development Steve Fontana told the News. “We will do our part to help foster the growth of technological industries by giving people the opportunity and the means to innovate and create and do work in these kinds of areas.”

Fontana said that the innovative and creative community that Yale’s teaching and research facilities help foster attracts technological industries to move to the Elm City. He said that both the University’s commitment to promoting research and New Haven’s commitment to helping new ideas go corporate have created an environment that fosters ingenuity.

Yale recently named quantum science as one of their top priority investment areas, and launched the Yale Quantum Institute in 2015 to “enhance Yale’s leadership in the field of quantum science and technology,” according to the institute’s website.

At Quantum Circuit’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Yale Vice Provost for Research Peter Schiffer voiced the University’s commitment to the field and its commitment to the company.

“The story of [Quantum Circuits] illustrates the potential to leverage university research to create jobs and to drive a competitive, high-tech economy,” Schiffer said in his speech. “Yale is proud of all of the startups based on Yale inventions, and we look forward to working with the private sector and the state to build more companies in New Haven.”

Schiffer echoed Yale’s gratitude for federal and state investment in quantum science, as well as financial support from Canaan, Sequoia and others in the private sector. Schiffer did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Several major companies have originated at Yale and Science Park, including Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Arvinas Inc, Continuity and Artificial Cell Technologies, among others. In 2017, Verizon named New Haven the best location in the country to start a tech startup, beating cities like San Francisco, Orlando and New Orleans.

Quantum Circuits, Inc. is located at 25 Science Park.

Caroline Moore | caroline.moore@yale.edu