Building a sustainable quantum future: OQC pledges carbon neutrality by 2022

As COP26 opens, scientists, activists, and investors are making a final plea to political leaders to keep the goal of 1.5℃ alive and to implement their promises for people and the planet.

On the ground, business leaders also have a significant responsibility to reduce the environmental impact of their companies. Every industry must take its part to avoid a climate crisis. The quantum industry is no exception. Unlike most, as our industry is still in its technological and commercial infancy, we have a unique opportunity to frame critical conversations from the get-go and ensure that quantum is designed as a #tech4good.

This is a chance I am determined to seize.

Quantum-enabled solutions

At Oxford Quantum Circuits (OQC), we recognise our responsibility. As the UK and Europe’s leader in quantum computing, we know that the technological advances we create present an unparalleled responsibility to adopt sustainable processes, considering the societal, economical and environmental potential global impact of our products.

We know that the technology we’re developing has the potential to revolutionise every aspect of our lives, from national security to finance, from drug discoveries to climate change. We accelerate science to enable the development of new battery technology, to find new materials: one day we’ll be able to replace concrete, or to improve the production of fertilisers, two incredibly carbon intensive processes. Those advances are not possible with today’s computers. We need quantum computers.

But whilst quantum computing can one day be part of the climate solution, left unchecked it could represent only a part of the problem. At OQC we use cryostats that cool our quantum computers to temperatures cooler than space. In addition to being extremely energy-intensive, this is a process that uses cryogenic gases (nitrogen) whose greenhouse gas intensity is even higher than carbon (almost 300x higher).

OQC leading by example

In July this year we started a conversation with quantum computing experts. We teamed up with The Quantum Daily and Oxford Instruments Nanoscience, and even with some of our main competitors to shine a light on the environmental impacts of quantum computing.

But it is no longer enough to talk the talk, we must walk the walk. This is why today I am extremely proud to take one step further and announce that OQC will be carbon neutral by the end of 2022. To my knowledge, we are the first quantum company to make such a pledge. I hope many will follow us.

For an early-stage company like ours, this is not an easy task. As a startup, we must be laser focused on our technical milestones and delivering for our customers. But as we did with diversity and inclusion, and ethics in quantum, we realised that sustainability must be core to everything we do at OQC. As always, it is not just about doing things right, but about doing the right thing.

Our carbon emissions are already part of our company’s KPIs, and our team is thinking about ways to reduce our carbon emissions. This is a challenging task but one that drives us all. We already use only 100% renewable energy and we will use the highest industry standards to offset our unavoidable emissions.

We’re not going to solve tomorrow’s problems with today’s technology. And as businesses, governments and people turn to science to find solutions, I am proud OQC is leading by example. Sustainability starts with us. It starts today.

I am a deep tech entrepreneur and the CEO of Oxford Quantum Circuits, the UK and Europe’s leader in quantum computing.