Dutch Startup on the Way to Make Quantum Photonic Processors Real

Article By : Anne-Françoise Pelé

QuiX was spun off from the University of Twente in 2019 to develop an optical processor for quantum computing capable of room-temperature operation.

QuiX Quantum, an Enschede, Netherlands-based quantum photonic startup, announced it has raised €5.5 million in seed funding to take another step toward the photonic quantum computer.

QuiX was spun off from the University of Twente in 2019 to develop an optical processor for quantum computing capable of room-temperature operation. QuiX uses a silicon nitride–integrated waveguide technology. In March 2022, QuiX announced the commercial launch of a photonic quantum processor that the company says is capable of 20 qumodes and “outperforms the current generation of processors by almost a factor of 2.”

Located on the campus of the University of Twente, it gathers photonics and quantum photonics experts. Ex-CEO and now director Hans van den Vlekkert started his career at Cordis Europe and created over 20 photonics companies, including PhoeniX, SatraX, Xio Photonics, and LioniX International. Jelmer Renema, expert in quantum photonics, is the CTO at QuiX and an assistant professor at the University of Twente.

In June, QuiX appointed Stefan Hengesbach as the new CEO, replacing van den Vlekkert. Hengesbach was previously managing director of the quantum startup Q.ANT in Stuttgart, Germany. He also had his dissertation awarded the Borchers Badge of RWTH Aachen University, as well as his research in the field of laser technology with the Hugo Geiger Prize of the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft and the WLT Prize of the Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft Lasertechnik e.V. (Scientific Society for Laser Technology).

From left to right: Hans van den Vlekkert and Stefan Hengesbach
(Source: QuiX Quantum

The seed round investment was led by PhotonDelta, an accelerator for the integrated photonics industry, Netherlands-based venture capital firm FORWARD.one, and East Netherlands Development Agency (Oost NL). QuiX had secured a pre-seed round with RAPH2Invest in 2019 and a seed round in July 2020 with FORWARD.one and Oost NL.

“QuiX Quantum’s processors are already world-leading and ideally suited to create the most powerful photonic quantum computer we have yet seen,” Hengesbach said. “This round brings us a huge leap forward toward this goal and will enable us to start production of a game-changing 50-qumode processor.”

Building a photonic ecosystem

The PhotonDelta ecosystem consists of 26 companies, 11 technology partners, and 12 R&D partners. In recent years, PhotonDelta has invested €171 million in promising photonics companies, including Smart Photonics, PhotonsFirst, Surfix, MicroAlign, Solmates, and Effect Photonics. QuiX is now added to the list.

In April, PhotonDelta received €1.1 billion in public and private funding to cement and expand the Netherlands’ position as a world leader in integrated photonics.

The program will run for six years and will enable PhotonDelta and its partners to further invest in photonic startups and scale-ups, expand production and research facilities, attract and train talent, drive adoption, and develop a world-class design library. By 2030, PhotonDelta said it aims to have created an ecosystem with hundreds of companies, serving customers worldwide and a wafer production capacity of 100,000+ per year.

In an e-mail discussion with EE Times Europe, Jorn Smeets, chief marketing officer at PhotonDelta, said, “The Netherlands is known worldwide for its highly dynamic environment for high-tech innovation, evident in the presence of large, leading-edge, innovative companies such as Philips. The high-tech landscape spans large companies to startups, across many domains, particularly in the semiconductor field — ASML, NXP — and institutes such as TNO and Imec. With a proven track record in our high-tech and semiconductor industries, as well as our leading global R&D in waveguide technologies, the Dutch integrated photonics sector has been building in prominence over the last few decades.”

The University of Twente is one of the three Dutch universities where photonics is being offered as a main study. Smeets said, “With Eindhoven, Twente, and Delft, we have a strong academic presence, leading innovation in this domain — ranking in the top 3 globally in terms of publications. Their research, their publications, their professors, and also the rich ecosystem of startups around them make for a fertile ground for the creation of startups. All in all, The Netherlands is in the unique position to convert the strong foundation in this technology toward a fully functioning industry. The supply chain we have laid out so far does already include 47 companies that can cover all the necessary steps: from design to production; to packaging, assembly, and testing; and, finally, companies that build innovative modules or subsystems using this technology.”

Broadening the discussion on the strategic position of Europe in the field of photonics research, PhotonDelta’s spokesperson concluded, “The digitizing world needs photonic functions to tackle the major challenges of our time, and Europe is ready to take up a strategic position in the various value chains. The Netherlands is taking the lead, in close cooperation with other European partners.”


This article was originally published on EE Times Europe.

Anne-Françoise Pelé is editor-in-chief of eetimes.eu and EE Times Europe.

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