Last updated: March 20, 2013 8:35 pm

BlackBerry founders back tech fund

Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, founders of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, have invested $100m in a private fund designed to commercialise breakthroughs made in the quest for a quantum computer.

Based in the smartphone maker’s home town of Waterloo, Ontario, Quantum Valley Investments will provide financial and intellectual capital for the development and commercialisation of local research into quantum information science.

Mr Lazaridis said he was optimistic that the fund would succeed by investing in spin-offs from the research efforts connected with the goal of building ‘a scalable general purpose quantum computer,’

He forecast that advances in quantum physics and the race to build the ultimate computer, could trigger changes as profound as those associated with the industrial revolution.

“Nothing you see in the classical technology world can prepare you for what you will see in the quantum technology revolution,” he said. Mr Lazaridis suggested that discoveries made during research into quantum physics could transform industries and technology-based disciplines such as medicine.

Mr Lazaridis, who last year stepped down as co-chief executive of Research In Motion, renamed BlackBerry, is still the smartphone maker’s vice-chairman and a major shareholder.

Over the past 12 years Mr Lazaridis and Mr Fregin have helped set up and fund through philanthropic donations several research institutes in Waterloo, including the Institute for Quantum Computing, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, and the Waterloo Institute for Nano Technology.

As a result, Waterloo has emerged as an acknowledged centre for quantum research, attracting researchers from around the world. During the launch of the Quantum-Nano Centre last year, Mr Lazaridis described the quantum research capability that has been developed in Waterloo as the “Bell Labs of the twenty-first century”.

The pair believe that in the same way that discoveries at AT&T’s Bell Labs led to commercialisation opportunities that created Silicon Valley, quantum computing breakthroughs will lead to the launch of commercial companies in the region and “help transform the Waterloo region into Canada’s Quantum Valley”.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Lazaridis described a “jaw dropping” moment as researchers described research breakthroughs made in quantum materials and processes.

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