Innovation & Enterprise


UCL quantum computing startup secures key partnerships

18 June 2020

UCL startup Rahko has announced a series of partnerships and deals over the past year which have been vital to their growth.

The Rahko team

Rahko was co-founded by UCL Computer Science PhD students Leo Wossnig and Ed Grant, alongside Miriam Cha and Ian Horobin. Rahko brings together a multidisciplinary team of experts in machine learning, quantum chemistry and quantum computing, to solve some of the world’s most complex problems.

The startup is building the capacity to better model the behavior of drugs, chemical reactions and the design of advanced materials with greater speed and accuracy than current state-of-the-art technologies. 

New partnerships

Rahko has secured a three-year collaboration with the science and technology company Merck. This collaboration will explore the potential for quantum inspired machine learning to enable the discovery and development of novel drugs, molecules and materials faster, and with greater efficiency and precision, than currently possible. 

Recently a consortium led by Rahko won an Innovate UK grant for their project Quantifi. The project aims to pave the way for the simulation of strongly-correlated materials on quantum computers. This will aid the design of new materials for better batteries, a host of clean technologies and industrial, air and road vehicles of the future. The consortium brings together several leading academic and industrial scientists with partner organisations, including Johnson Matthey, King’s College London, and the National Physical Laboratory, with support from Amazon Web Services (AWS). 

Growth has allowed Rahko to appoint leading scientists as scientific advisors to the business. These experts include Alexandre Tkatchenko, from the University of Luxembourg, and Gábor Csányi, from the University of Cambridge.

Supporting UCL entrepreneurs

Rahko have benefitted from support at UCL Innovation & Enterprise. They received advice and mentoring on everything from recruitment to contracts through the extracurricular entrepreneurship programme and support. They also had access to free office space for 12 months in UCL’s dedicated entrepreneurship hub, BaseKX.

Rahko also received support from the Global Innovation team, through their Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) activities. They advised on potential partners, intellectual property matters, and applications for European Commission grant funding.  

The company was in the first cohort of Conception X, a venture builder to help PhD students commercialise their research, launched out of UCL Engineering. Rahko secured seed investment in mid-2019, in a round led by Balderton Capital, Europe’s leading venture capital fund, and participation from AI Seed and a small group of angel investors.

Leonard Wossnig, CEO of Rahko said, “A year on from when we left The Hatchery at BaseKX, we’re able to reflect on just how much we have gained from the breadth of support across the UCL entrepreneurship support landscape. 

We’d encourage any UCL student with an interest in entrepreneurship to explore and take advantage of the programs and people at UCL helping students transform research and ideas into exciting ventures. 

We’d like to thank the teams at UCL Innovation & Enterprise, including, the European Enterprise Network (EEN), Conception X, and the academic and professional staff of the UCL Computer Science and Physics Departments for their expertise and support.   

Jerry Allen, Director of Entrepreneurship at UCL Innovation & Enterprise, commented: “Rahko is an example of a startup at the absolute cutting edge of technology, who’ve benefited from the unique ecosystem and world-class research base UCL has in quantum computing and AI. I’m extremely proud of what they’ve achieved in a year since leaving UCL’s entrepreneurship hub.” 


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Photo © Rahko