TWO scientists have received millions of pounds to build a piece of groundbreaking technology.

Dr Sebastian Weidt and Professor Winfried Hensinger, who both carry out research and teach at the University of Sussex, have secured £3.6 million investment for their plans for the world’s first large-scale quantum computer.

It puts them up against the likes of Google and IBM in a race to create what Sebastian described as “the technology of the century”.

He said: “A quantum computer is a completely new computer. It’s not the sort you have at your desk.

“It’s a machine which can solve certain problems that the most powerful conventional computer would take millions of years to solve.”

The Argus: Professor Winfried Hensinger and Dr Sebastian Weidt, founders of Universal QuantumProfessor Winfried Hensinger and Dr Sebastian Weidt, founders of Universal Quantum

Unlike their competitors, who have designed quantum computers which use billions of laser beams for calculations at extremely cold temperatures marginally above minus 273C, Sebastian and Winfried have developed technology based on trapped ions, or charged atoms.

These atoms carry out calculations within the computer using microwave technology, such as that used in mobile phones, and do not need the same extreme cooling requirements.

It means their computer is more practical and can operate millions of qubits, or units of data, at the same time – and solve complex problems.

Sebastian said their computer could be used to develop new drugs as it can work out chemical reactions very quickly and could also help in the development of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning technologies.

He said: “It’s an enabling technology which a lot of sectors will use to help them work out their own problems, just like we do now with conventional computers.

“In ten or 20 years we will look back and think, this is the technology of the century.”

Sebastian and Winfried, who founded their start-up company Universal Quantum in 2018, have been researching quantum mechanics for more than 20 years.

The pair have received funding from a number of investors including Hoxton Ventures, which was an early backer of Deliveroo, and Village Global, which is backed by the likes of Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos.

Sebastian said: “It’s very humbling and incredibly exciting as we have these leading investors who believe in our technology and our team.

“Universal Quantum is really about taking the solutions we have developed through research at Sussex and putting them into practice.”

Sebastian and Winfried are looking for a suitable facility in Brighton and Hove to begin the challenge of building the quantum computer and they will need to hire hundreds of engineers to help them.

The Argus: Silicon microchips were used in Sebastian and Winfried's prototype for a large-scale quantum computerSilicon microchips were used in Sebastian and Winfried's prototype for a large-scale quantum computer

Sebastian said: “It’s a long-term mission but we really wanted to do this in Brighton. We want the city to be a quantum technology hub.

“We love Brighton and we actively chose not to go to the US or other places a lot of start-up companies like to go.”

Winfried said: “Quantum computing has the power to change the world for the better.

“We’re assembling the brightest minds to do just that, paving the way for a British start-up to lead the journey to a truly useful and usable one million qubit quantum computer.

“Our large-scale quantum computers will one day allow us to tackle the grand global issues of our time, from creating new pharmaceuticals, revolutionising financial modelling, tackling optimisation problems, machine learning even helping to feed the world’s population by making fertiliser more efficiently.”