Pioneer Industries & Bubbles
For an industry to grow, there needs to be demand for new products or services within it. In the deep tech industry, this is even more important. An example of a growth industry can usually be defined as one showing consistent sales and a healthy level of new investment. In many cases throughout history, these are what we term pioneer industries, like the invention of printing, mechanized industrial machinery and the personal computer. Inversely, there have been numerous examples of bubbles and a lack of profitability to offset the positives.
In the 21st century, with the advent of AI, VR, blockchain, and other deep tech sectors, we have witnessed a surge of investment, as well as periods when people’s and investor’s opinions on the technology have been somewhat cooler (the so-called AI winters, for instance).
Multibillion-dollar stock market valuations with massive press hype have somehow become the norm, a daily occurrence. The unicorn startups seem to be in the headlines every other day, creating mythical figures of their uber founders like WeWork’s Adam Neumann or Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos fame. And though these individuals’ extreme startup journeys are great for clickbait, in the long run, their business models are just not very sustainable.
Over the last decade, the hype surrounding quantum information science (QIS) and its respective subsector of quantum computing (QC) has earned more than its fair share of air time and printers’ ink. Tech multinationals Google, IBM, Honeywell, and Microsoft have — alongside QC’s smaller representatives D-Wave Systems, IonQ, Zapata Computing et al — built the industry from the ground up.
Now, in late 2020, notwithstanding the dampener the COVID-19 pandemic has put on things, the QC industry is in a good place with investment on the rise: IQM’s €39M and ColdQuanta’s $32M raises (both Series A rounds) in the last few weeks prove the QC industry is alive and kicking despite the health crisis.
Still, for all the plaudits in getting the funding — which TQD believes is rightly deserved — there should be a concern.
Although the hype is all fine and dandy, what the quantum tech industry really needs is a bona fide value chain, an industry built on supply and demand. Although this is happening, it’s still very much at its early stages.
We already have a few players building the quantum computers, and many more writing software and formulating algorithms to run on those machines. This will, in turn, create an ecosystem where parts will very much be needed. These could come in the form of cables, cryogenic refrigeration systems and the small components that hold the larger hardware pieces together.
This is where companies that have been building such components in cryogenic materials, high-precision optical solutions and sensing can come into their own.
Sal Bosman, CEO and founder of Delft Circuits, a Dutch startup that manufactures Cri/oFlex input-output systems cabling, put it best in an exclusive interview at TQD recently: “Well, the quantum industry is developing in such a direction that is beginning to create a value chain. In another industry for example, we all know Apple makes the iPhone, but there are thousands of components in an iPhone, and the components are sourced from many companies. One company I really like is called SkyWorks, based in New England, which produces the microphones and speakers for the iPhone along with many more components. Last time I checked, this company was worth about $20 billion. This is the sort of company that makes up the ecosystem of the telecom industry.”
Bosman’s insight into this ‘value chain’ will be very important in the future direction the industry will head. Companies that build things and can count on reliable revenue streams from paying customers and don’t rely on venture capitalists or other external sources of cash to grow is where the value chain will start, as is in Delft Circuits’ and SkyWorks’ case. But Delft Circuits is a relatively new player, founded only in 2016. There are others who have been around for longer, in some instances a decade or two. One of them, from Bozeman, Montana, which ‘manufactures high-precision electrical, optical, and cryogenic systems for quantum materials research and the quantum computing, sensing, and networking industries’, has been in business for just over a decade.
Montana Instruments’ closed-cycle optical cryostats offer low-temperature research community applications that are not only high-performance but reliable too.
Your cryogenic partners in quantum materials research and technology development
— Montana Instruments
Examples of the company’s product range include the closed-cycle optical cryostats Crystation® Standard (S) Series and Cryostation® Crossover Premium (XP) Series, which can be used in quantum information science (QIS), single-photon sources, single-molecule spectroscopy, cavity-enhanced experiments, and quantum dot spectroscopy.
CEO and founder of Montana Instruments is Luke Mauritsen. With a BS in mechanical engineering from Montana State University-Bozeman, Mauritsen’s engineering background is in developing cryogenic technologies for military applications. He started Montana Instruments after becoming ‘frustrated by the challenges of doing work at low temperatures and learned that many of the brightest scientists around the world were also experiencing the same time-consuming difficulties [and] set out to design a solution to facilitate quicker results by creating a highly-controlled and automated sample environment for physical, electronic, and optical interrogation of materials and devices’.
It looks like Mauritsen’s gamble is paying off. With the quantum technologies industry, as well as research into it, growing ever bigger, Montana Instruments is sure to see a pick up in demand for its state-of-the-art products. And as the hardware and software sectors grow, so will companies like Montana Instruments and Delft Circuits, offering dependable, innovative products.