U of C partnership with QAI Ventures a 'game-changer' for quantum tech sector

The University of Calgary has partnered with Switzerland-based venture capitalist firm QAI Ventures

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Calling it a significant step in the emerging field of quantum technology development, officials from the University of Calgary announced a new partnership with Switzerland-based venture capital firm QAI Ventures on Wednesday.

The Swiss firm will team up with Quantum City — the U of C’s hub for quantum science research and technology development — on a new accelerator program, providing investment funding for early-stage quantum technology startups and entrepreneurs.

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Noting there aren’t yet many quantum innovation hubs around the world, Megan Lee, managing director of Quantum City, said the collaboration will expand Calgary’s international influence in the burgeoning sector by attracting startups to participate in the accelerator program.

“It expands our reach globally, it improves our access to investment opportunity and it accelerates our development of quantum solutions that have the potential to transform many different industries,” she said.

Simplified, quantum science is the study of how matter and energy behave at the subatomic level, according to Lee.

“At that level, things start to function very weirdly,” she said. “So harnessing that weirdness, we end up with quantum technologies.”

Quantum technology development can vary from quantum computing to quantum sensing and quantum communications.

The field is so nascent that it’s difficult to describe how exactly quantum technologies will affect society in the near future, Lee acknowledged.

However, she noted practical applications could range from improving optimizations and simulation scenarios for various industries, including energy, agriculture or other sectors.

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“The thing to remember is that quantum technology is going to impact us, even the average Calgarian, whether they’re in tech or not,” she said.

“We need to start experimenting and need to start thinking about how to adapt quantum technologies when they get here.”

‘We want to be part of the new economy’

QAI Ventures formed in 2022 in Basel, Switzerland, as a quantum tech-focused venture capital firm and accelerator. According to the company’s website, QAI Ventures supports startups as they take projects from the lab to the market, and up to the point of launching an initial public offering.

Alexandra Beckstein, the firm’s CEO and co-founder, said what attracted QAI Ventures to the University of Calgary was Quantum City’s focus on the big picture when it comes to quantum innovation.

“It needs a lot of commitment from all the players together, and this is what we find here in a very focused way,” she said. “This is why the University of Calgary attracts us. We did not hesitate for a minute when they asked us to work together.”

She acknowledged that investment in quantum tech has financial risks and requires long-term patience, but her firm believes in the future benefits of the technology.

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“We don’t come with the aim of making fast money, like most venture capitalists,” she said, noting QAI Ventures is one of the few firms focusing specifically on investing in quantum tech.

“We want to build an ecosystem and shape the economy based on this technology. We want to be part of the new economy. That’s our aim, that’s why we do it. That is why we invest in this technology.”

Alberta Minister of Technology and Innovation Nate Glubish
Nate Glubish, Alberta’s minister of technology and innovation, calls the partnership a ‘game-changer.’ Brent Calver/Postmedia

‘This is going to be a game-changer’

Also at Wednesday’s announcement was Nate Glubish, Alberta’s minister of technology and innovation.

He compared innovation in the field of quantum science to the recent development of artificial intelligence, stating it is an “exciting time to be in tech.”

“I believe quantum will do in the next five to 10 years for all things technology what AI has done for all things tech in the last five years,” he said. “That’s why it is so important for us to be investing in establishing quantum research and expertise at the University of Calgary.”

The U of C’s partnership with QAI Ventures will help attract quantum technology innovators to Calgary, Glubish added, where they will develop their ideas into “really exciting practical technologies” with the potential to change the world.

“This is going to be a game-changer,” he said.

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