University College Dublin Quantum Computer Spin-out Named One to Watch by Nature Research

University College Dublin Quantum Computer Spin-out Named One to Watch by Nature Research

Equal1 Labs, a University College Dublin (UCD) spin-out, which is developing a new type of quantum computer based on the latest advances in semiconductor CMOS technology, has been named a company to watch by Nature Research, as part of its inaugural Spinoff* Prize in collaboration with Merck.

Equal1 is one of only 32 companies from around the world, and the only one from Ireland, to be included in the Ones to Watch list.

The Spinoff Prize was established by Nature Research, part of Springer Nature, in partnership with Merck, a leading science and technology company, to showcase and celebrate global excellence in the commercialisation of research through the creation of spinoff companies.

The prize aims to provide visibility and support for academic entrepreneurs and their companies, worldwide.

Quantum computing is a potential industry game-changer as the field promises an exponential increase in computing power enabling the development of breakthrough applications in areas such as; drug and vaccine discovery, climate modelling, protein folding modelling, financial services and artificial intelligence.

Equal1 Labs was founded by CEO Dr Dirk Leipold, UCD Professor R. Bogdan Staszewski and Mike Asker, as a spin-out from the UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. The company has growing teams based in Fremont, California and at NovaUCD, the Centre for New Ventures and Entrepreneurs.

Equal1 Labs is an Enterprise Ireland high potential start-up (HPSU) and has secured investment from the Atlantic Bridge University Fund.

Equal1’s CEO, Dr Dirk Leipold commented, “We are delighted to have been named a One to Watch by Nature Research as part of the prestigious Spinoff Prize, especially in its inaugural year. At Equal1 we have designed a fully integrated quantum processing unit (QPU, or brain of the quantum computer) on a foundry CMOS process, fully integrated with all required control electronics. We chose this approach as it is scalable to a very large number of qubits and low cost.”

“These features support our vision of democratising the field of quantum computing. We have integrated our QPU into a compact demonstrator which maintains the QPU at the required cryogenic temperatures and allows a software user to interact with the qubits.”

Dr Elena Blokhina, Equal1’s CTO, added, “We are excited to have translated the science of semiconductor devices into a scalable, cost effective technology platform for quantum computing. Our plans are to demonstrate the capability of the technology to scale and solve real world problems in a timeframe that s much shorter than the consensus We believe strongly in the promise of quantum computing to solve major societal challenges and we are working to fulfil Equal1’s role as central to this promise.”  

Tom Flanagan, Director of Enterprise and Commercialisation, UCD, said, “I would like to congratulate Equal1 on being named a One to Watch by Nature Research as part of the inaugural Spinoff Prize competition. Being the only company from Ireland included in this prestigious list of companies is an indication of the world-class quality of spin-outs emerging from University College Dublin and which are being supported by NovaUCD to grow and scale on the global stage.”

From almost 150 applications to the Spinoff Prize competition, 44 science-based university spin-offs from around the world were selected by judges as having the most promise of significant impact. From these 44 companies, 12 were chosen as finalists and the remaining 32, including Equal1, were named as ‘Ones to Watch.’

The judges evaluated applications on the basis of several key criteria including; the quality and originality of the underpinning science, the demonstration of a market opportunity, the significance of the problem that the company hopes its product will address, a clearly articulated business plan, and the quality of the technical and business leadership teams.

Richard Hughes, VP, Publishing, Nature Research Partnerships, said, “We are delighted to have received so many strong applications from university spinoffs worldwide. By featuring the most promising companies in Nature, we hope to raise their profiles. We encourage potential collaborators, partners or investors to get in touch with the founders to build relationships. The challenging external circumstances require that the closing rounds of the Spinoff Prize competition, during which we will have an opportunity to meet the entrepreneurs and hear them describe their work in finer detail, will take place as virtual pitch events. This provides an opportunity for anyone to participate from home. We invite you to join us.” 

Following pitches to a panel of expert judges four of the 12 finalists will take part in a Future Insight Virtual Event on 13 July. An overall winner will be selected and will be awarded the title of 2020 Nature Spinoff Prize champion and will be awarded a €30,000 prize.

*The term spinoff in this case refers to a company that has been formed specifically to commercialise the outputs generated from research conducted at a university or research institute. All university spinoff companies formed on or after 30 November 2016 were eligible to apply for the competition.


10 July 2020

For further information contact Micéal Whelan, Communications and Media Relations Manager, UCD Research and Innovation, NovaUCD, e: or t: + 353 1 716 3712 or Jason Lynch, Equal1 Labs, e:

Editors Notes

Further information on this year’s 12 Spinoff Prize finalists and the 32 Ones to Watch available via

Nature Research is a portfolio of high-quality products and services across the life, physical, chemical and applied sciences – including journals, databases and researcher services, dedicated to serving the scientific community. Nature Research is part of Springer Nature.

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, a leading science and technology company, operates across healthcare, life science and performance materials.