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Microsoft enters $100M partnership with Canadian firm after quantum breakthrough

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Canadian quantum computing firm Photonic has emerged from stealth to raise $100 million for its all-silicon quantum computing platform. Among the investors is new partner Microsoft, who will co-develop quantum networking solutions with the startup.

The investment and partnership come as numerous experts in the industry laud Photonic’s novel approach to quantum computing as a “breakthrough” for the field.

Photonic’s technique involves building quantum computers using silicon spin qubits with a spin-photon interface — in other words, a computer that uses qubits made of light to perform quantum computations on silicon hardware.

Related: IBM, Microsoft, others form post-quantum cryptography coalition

In quantum computing, a qubit is analogous with a binary computer’s bits. However, whereas a binary, or classical, computer can only perform calculations using ones and zeros, a qubit can tap into exotic features of quantum physics called “superposition” and “entanglement.” These quantum states allow qubits to compute in a way that would resemble a binary bit being able to use ones, zeros, ones and zeros, neither ones nor zeros, and other even less intuitive combinations.

A spin qubit takes things a step further by adding electron spin. And, by developing a qubit with a photonic spin interface in an all-silicon hardware solution, Photonic believes it has found the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to quantum computing.

Stephanie Simmons, founder and Chief Quantum Officer of Photonic, says the company expects to bring a fault-tolerant, fully-functional, quantum networking system to market as early as within the next five years.

Per Simmons, the partnership with Microsoft will help to facilitate that timeline:

“We’re incredibly excited to be partnering with Microsoft to bring forth these new quantum capabilities. Their extensive global infrastructure, proven platforms, and the remarkable scale of the Azure cloud make them the ideal partner to unleash the transformative potential of quantum computing and accelerate innovation across the quantum computing ecosystem.”