19th December, 2019

Sheffield’s spin-out to build the quantum technology of the future

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The second quantum revolution is coming, but who will be the first to champion it? Now, it could be AegiQ, a University of Sheffield spin-out company with a new enabling technology and over two decades of quantum knowledge behind it.

The first quantum revolution a century ago has determined the world we live in now: the information age. This new age is characterised by a shift from traditional industry to an economy based on information technology. It began with physicists unpicking the inner secrets of the atom and the quantum nature of its smaller particles 100 years ago. Were it not for quantum science we wouldn’t have modern computers, smartphones, LED TVs and many more of the everyday items we’re used to.

Today we’re entering a new age of quantum technology powered by the ability to unlock the most intricate properties of matter. With the right infrastructure and support it could change the world as we know it for a second time. It will inform everything from enhancing cyber security and artificial intelligence to smarter use of water and truly personalised medicine. Google, IBM and Microsoft have identified this potential and they’ve invested heavily in it as a result.

The race to become the first to turn these theoretical ideas into real-world applications compares to the space race. But cracking it and ensuring its efficiency for all its potential applications is a challenge. Few companies have been able to produce technology which can be applied to all three pillars of quantum technology efficiently. Who will be the first to crack quantum technology 2.0? Well, now it could be AegiQ, a University of Sheffield spin-out company with over two decades of quantum knowledge behind it. 

AegiQ aims to play a significant role in the rapidly growing quantum technology market with their next generation identical single-photon sources. These are semiconductor chips that emit particles of light, known as photons, all of which are indistinguishable from each other. AegiQ’s single-photon sources can be embedded into sensing, communication or information processing systems.

One of the key challenges when making practical single-photon sources such as these, is ensuring that photons are emitted whenever they’re needed with complete certainty and that the system emits an identical photon every single time for the technology to work. The patented chips provide a solution and have a significantly higher efficiency than any competing technology due to the speed and predictability with which it produces photons for quantum applications. Unlike many other technologies on the market, AegiQ can be applied to all three pillars of quantum technology: high-sensitivity imaging, quantum communications, and photonic information processing or computing.

The UK is amongst the global leaders in bringing quantum technologies to market which is strongly driven by the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme run by the government. The University of Sheffield already plays a major role in quantum technology with its National Epitaxy Facility and The Sheffield Quantum Centre, which have received a number of large EPSRC grants over the years. But, with strong support for commercial development available from Innovate UK, a team of researchers led by Professors Maurice Skolnick and Jon Heffernan, saw an opportunity to expand quantum technology at Sheffield beyond the boundaries of the University.

The commercial value of the research was recognised by the now CEO, Dr Maksym Sich, and AegiQ was born. It was accepted to join the Y Accelerator, Sheffield City Region’s Growth Hub programme, and has received a number of grants to support its growth including the University’s own funding and Research England’s Connecting Capabilities Fund – a Northern Triangle Initiative.  

“Our technology will generate a paradigm shift in high-performance computing for specific tasks, secure communications and ultra-sensitive imaging. All industries, from health to aerospace, will be impacted by Quantum 2.0 technologies in the future and we’re providing the enabling technology for this to start today,” says Dr Scott Dufferwiel, CTO, AegiQ. The ultimate goal of AegiQ is to become the backbone of the photon-based quantum technologies market, a market that will grow exponentially over the coming years. – Dr Max Sich, CEO AegiQ

Quantum technology will change the efficiency and processes of many industries around the world and at the forefront will be AegiQ.