Incubators & Accelerators: Launchpads For Quantum Success?

Photo by Bill Jelen on Unsplash

Common Denominator

Anybody who knows anything about startup culture and business will have heard of incubators and their close brethren, accelerators. The difference between the two, however, is that incubators are targeted to ‘pure startups’, companies taking their first steps in the difficult world of entrepreneurship, while accelerators, on the other hand, focus their resources on companies that have been around for a while and wish to scale. One common denominator with both is they offer expert mentorship and guidance from their teams of seasoned entrepreneurs and business professionals.

Incubators and accelerators come in various forms, though quite a few of the most well-known specialize in tech startups. Many of these, as would be expected, are found in Silicon Valley and other geographical locations with a focus on innovation.

Examples of tech incubators and accelerators include Y Combinator, Techstars and 500 Startups, (all U.S.), Creative Destruction Lab (Canada), Ignite (U.K), and Startup Reykjavik (Iceland), just going to show they have a global representation.

“The accelerator experience is a process of intense, rapid, and immersive education aimed at accelerating the life cycle of young innovative companies, compressing years’ worth of learning-by-doing into just a few months.”

— Brad Feld, Co-founder, Techstars

In quantum computing (QC) and quantum technologies, too, they are starting to take notice.

Launchpad For Quantum Tech

Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) is a seed-stage program for massively scalable technology-based ventures. CDL’s Quantum stream is based out of Toronto, which ‘brings together entrepreneurs, investors, leading scientists in quantum technologies, and quantum technology partners (D-Wave Systems, IBM Q, Rigetti Computing,  Xanadu, and Zapata Computing) to build ventures in the emerging domain of quantum computing, quantum communication, quantum sensing and other applications of quantum technologies’. 

Every year, the CDL Quantum program not only accepts early-stage software and hardware companies, but also individuals and pre-incorporated teams. This year, CDL Quantum is going through its 4th cohort, and so far more than 80 ventures (representing over 230 participants) from over 35 different countries have participated in the program.

Acceptance to the CDL Quantum Stream program gives participants access to:

  • Milestone-based Business Guidance and Investor Access from a group of highly successful entrepreneurs and investors with expertise in scaling high-tech startups, world-leading scientists, and industry leaders in quantum technologies.
  • Access to the latest quantum hardware and software offered by CDL Quantum’s technology partners.
  • Technical Training is offered through a 4-week bootcamp where potential founders learn critical technical and business skills via in-person (virtual) lectures, practical exercises, and one-on-one interactions with world-leading scientists and hardware providers.
  • Guidance on strategy and business development is offered from top MBA students, economists, and faculty from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. 

To date, CDL has several quantum tech startups on its books like OTI Lumionics, ProteinQure, SolidStateAI, BEIT, Menten AI, Agnostiq, KETS Quantum, ORCA Computing, SB Quantum, Multiverse Computing.


Another initiative across the pond is doing much the same as CDL is Bristol-based Unit DX, a deep-tech incubator, with already half a dozen quantum tech startups in its portfolio, as well as a cadre of other innovative startups at the cusp of biotechnology, synthetic biology, AI, photonics, drone tech, robotics, and advanced materials innovation.

We believe scientists make great entrepreneurs

— UnitDX

Unit DX

Founded in 2017 by Ziylo, a biotechnology spin-out company from the University of Bristol acquired by the Danish multinational pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk in 2018, Unit DX ‘empowers scientists as entrepreneurs, providing facilities, investment, and mentoring’.

Although the bulk of Unit DX’s portfolio companies lie within the biotechnology sector, as already mentioned, quantum tech startups have their fair share of representatives, too, with FluoretiQ (which TQD covered in a story in August), NuNano, KETS, QLM, QTEC, and Raycalare leading the charge in the quantum tech industry.

‘Home to the city’s most innovative science and engineering companies’, Unit DX’s overall goal is to give scientists the tools they need to become entrepreneurs, while at the same time giving them the facilities, investment and expert mentoring required to make their startup dreams a success.

Cofounders of Unit DX are CEO Harry Destecroix and Tom Smart, the finance director. On the formation of UnitDX, Destecroix said: “The idea for Unit DX was formed when looking for lab space in the Bristol area for our chemistry start-up. When we realised there was nothing suitable, we decided to make a change. Unit DX means that scientific companies in the South-West now have access to the facilities they need.”

Unit DX offers prospective startup the following:

  • Start-up and follow-on laboratory space to rent in Bristol
  • Rentable space includes biosafety level 2 (cat 2) lab facilities ranging from 220–770 sq ft
  • 24 ducted fume cupboards available on-site
  • Office and write-up areas, private meeting rooms & event spaces
  • Reception services & catering available
  • Kitchen, coffee and breakout areas
  • Access equipment and expertise through our instrumentation link with the Universities of Bristol & Bath
  • Close to Bristol Temple Meads railway station

All these things are very important for any startup trying to find its feet, and with Unit DX’s first facility the home base to more than thirty businesses, it is definitely proving how innovative Bristol and South West England can be when it comes to innovation.

Designed by Scientists, for Scientists

— Unit DX

As quantum tech becomes more established in deep tech circles, and the wider community embraces it for what it is — a life-changing, transformative technology — we will most probably see more incubators and accelerators take a chance on quantum tech startups, giving them the opportunity to see how their quantum solutions can improve outcomes in health, finance, material science, and other important sectors.

Initiatives like Unit DX is part of that push. TQD wishes them luck.

James Dargan

James Dargan

James Dargan is a writer and researcher at The Quantum Insider. His focus is on the QC startup ecosystem and he writes articles on the space that have a tone accessible to the average reader.

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