In this interview, Najwa Sidqi, Knowledge Transfer Manager of Quantum Technologies at KTN met with Maria Maragkou, Senior Business Development Manager and Nicole Holzmann, Resident Quantum Chemist and Quantum Science Manager at Riverlane. Riverlane builds ground-breaking software to unleash the power of quantum computers.
What is Riverlane quantum technology?
“We are a software company and we develop the operating systems for quantum computers. We want it to be not only specific to one hardware but we are looking to make them hardware agnostic. Our mission is to make quantum computing possible sooner. Working across the software stack, we are going from developing the software tools to control the various kinds of qubits technologies, all the way to developing and implementing quantum algorithms. We are also looking into error correction and mitigation techniques, as well as investigating the types of applications and problems that can be solved with the help of quantum computers. We currently focus on developing methods to solve chemical problems on a quantum computer. This is maybe too big of a task for the hardware at this stage, but we are looking at ways and methods of making the most of the current available technology”, says Nicole Holzmann.
How will your quantum technology advance manufacturing?
“Quantum computing can aid in general, all the processes around designing materials and drugs. For example, screening, designing, selecting and then testing materials is a very long process and is not very efficient. We currently think of quantum computing in two ways. One way would be to go beyond the classical limitations and therefore beyond classical computing. The modelling can be improved in the process itself. For example, we can think of designing materials with specific properties or production processes, where quantum can make the optimisation cycle faster, even done dynamically. The second way is quantum computing protocols where quantum can take us beyond the traditional trial and error process which is currently the main way of designing materials and drugs; and quantum computers can significantly improve this approach. We are trying to build an operating system that will make quantum computers a reality faster. This can accelerate quantum hardware development and then also improve system performance and processes”, says Maria Maragkou.
What sectors are you currently focusing on?
“We are mainly focusing on the chemistry sector which includes different problems. For example, we collaborate with customers in the space of drug design. We are looking to help solve problems that are difficult on classical computers. We are also looking at the energy sector, materials and battery design”, says Nicole Holzmann.
What role will Riverlane play in sustainability as well as net-zero using quantum?
“ For sustainability, we need to look for example at processes to produce fertilisers more efficiently, for instance with less CO2 emission. We also need to develop new ways to do that and how to capture CO2. We may have new battery materials with higher energy density. Taking batteries as an example, they are very complicated chemical systems and what you need to take into account is electrons. Electrons are what makes the battery run. But describing electrons with a classical computer is very difficult. It is best to describe a quantum system with a quantum computer and that is exactly why chemistry is one of the areas where we think quantum computing will have a big impact”, confirms Nicole Holzmann. Maria Maragkou also adds that quantum computing can improve the trial and error process which is very long and not very effective. Systems can be modelled better and complicated equations could be solved. Maria also sees that quantum computing can be implemented alongside classical methods and other technologies such as machine learning, to create new models and produce data. Hard sustainability problems can only be solved with a combination of these technologies.
How is Riverlane involved in the pharmaceutical industry?
Riverlane recently announced their latest collaboration with the world leading fragment-based drug discovery company Astex, to demonstrate the future potential of quantum chemistry. Nicole Holzmann confirms this collaboration is about feasibility studies with two components. The first consists of the study of the key structure, a covalent drug system, where classical computers and methods in classical drug design fail to find a solution. The other component Riverlane is looking at is how to improve the runs in the hardware by looking into error mitigation, with two teams working on the chemistry and the error mitigation aspects. One of the big topics in quantum computing is persisting problems with coherence and errors induced by quantum computing. Riverlane is developing new algorithms to address these problems. They hope these new algorithms will reduce the error by three times and provide 44 times of runtime improvement.
What quantum technology achievement are you most proud of now and what are you excited about in the future?
“It is a really exciting thing seeing our work coming to life and seeing the software that we’re producing actually controlling the qubit. The first demos that we have reported with hardware companies were very exciting for us internally. We also have another project going on with various hardware companies about developing a costing engine that can estimate the resources needed to run algorithms on quantum computers”, says Maria. Nicole says Riverlane is also working closely with hardware businesses and enterprise customers bringing the two parties closer and providing a common language between the two.”
To view the full Riverlane interview recording, please click here.