IonQ opens first US quantum factory amid VC cash crunch

Who knows where they'll get the funds for $1B investment plan, though

Quantum technology outfit IonQ has cut the ribbon on its Seattle manufacturing facility, claimed as the first factory for quantum systems on US soil. The move comes shortly after a report claimed that investors have halved the venture capital funding going to quantum companies.

IonQ announced plans for a quantum computer manufacturing plant early last year, and the site at Bothell near Seattle in Washington was declared open this week by CEO Peter Chapman in a ceremony in the presence of state senator Maria Cantwell.

The facility will serve as IonQ's primary production engineering location in the US, the company said, housing its research and development and its manufacturing teams as well as hosting its second datacenter providing cloud access to quantum compute resources for IonQ customers.

According to IonQ, this site is the first factory in the US that will manufacture quantum computers that are "replicable and deployable" into customer datacenters. It declined to say how many systems it expected to build and sell each year, however. We asked, and will update this article if we get an answer.

"The Seattle facility represents a tangible realization of IonQ's commitment to commercializing quantum and getting quantum computers into the hands of customers," Chapman said in a statement.

The company is careful to state it is the first such factory in the US as another quantum startup, Quandela, announced the opening of a factory for manufacturing quantum computers in Massy, on the outskirts of Paris, last year.

IonQ said its quantum factory strengthens the Pacific Northwest region as a technology hub and said it plans to create thousands of new jobs and opportunities over the coming years. The company last year said it planned to invest $1 billion into an expansion in the region over the next decade.

As The Register reported at the time, it isn't clear where IonQ was going to find the funds to embark on a $1 billion investment plan. The company reported revenue of $6.1 million for the third quarter of 2023, which was more than double that of the same period a year earlier, but it also made a net loss of $44.8 million.

Meanwhile, a report published last month also found that venture capital going into quantum companies fell by half during 2023 as investors pumped their cash into generative AI instead.

The picture is starkest in the US, where there was an 80 percent decline in venture capital for quantum, while the APAC region dropped by 17 percent, and EMEA grew slightly by 3 percent, the report stated.

Part of the problem is that while there is progress on quantum computing, it is not expected to deliver its full promised potential for perhaps a decade or more.

Gartner Research vice president Matthew Brisse previously pointed out that the technical advances made so far have yet to feed through to competitive advantage for most organizations.

"While there has been amazing progress on quantum computing as a technology, the business advantage bar has moved very little, if at all for many approaches," he said.

However, IonQ continues to develop its quantum technology, based on trapped ions manipulated by laser beams, and said it is readying its next-generation IonQ Forte Enterprise and IonQ Tempo systems.

The company's quantum systems are also available via all three major cloud providers – AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. ®

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