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Archer Materials (ASX:AXE) at the Stocks Down Under Semiconductor Conference on 30 November 2021

December 3, 2021

Archer Materials, AXE, video

Archer Materials (ASX:AXE) CEO Mohammad Choucair presented at Stocks Down Under’s Semiconductor Conference on 30 November 2021.

See full transcription below!


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Marc: And if I could invite over Mohammad to the stage. Mohammad is the CEO of Archer Materials. Mohammad, if you can hear me, if you can join us. Yep, there we go. Excellent. Good morning, Mohammad. How are you?

Mohammad: Hey, I’m good. Thanks. I know you love your polls.

Marc: Yeah. What do you think, Mohammad? Is now a good time to buy?

Mohammad: You know I can’t answer that, right.

Marc: All right. Excellent. Well, Mohammad, you will be talking today about one of the things is quantum computing and obviously, the holy grail is quantum computing at room temperature. I get excited just thinking about that. So without further ado, I’ll hand the floor over to you to jump straight in and we’ve got some question time afterwards. So anyone, if you’ve got a question for Mohammad, just type it in the chat on the right-hand side of your screen. And with that, I’ll hand over to Mohammad.

Mohammad: Thanks. Thanks, Marc. Well, I mean, I know you mentioned the word global and semiconductor in the one sentence but you know, to today, I wanted to introduce you all to the global scale of opportunity that our technology represents. And to really give you an overview of the wonderful work Archer is doing in this domain and really the way we’re going about doing this work. And why, as a consequence of this work, Archer I believe is worthy of your attention and your consideration.

Here is an image of where we operate out of mostly here in Sydney. It’s a semiconductor research and prototyping foundry. It cost about $150 million to build. But one thing I will say is the images that you see in our presentation today are all of Archer staff, our materials, the facilities we access but there’s one I think in the presentation that we use with permission from IBM.

But look, before I go on, considering the speakers today and the semiconductor industry in general, I think as Marc touched upon, there is a need to differentiate Archer from other groups in the semiconductor sector. The only similarity between Archer and the others in this important sector is the word semiconductor. Other than that, we’re in completely different arenas. And this is because Archer is developing a quantum chip and really the only company on the ASX doing so.

And in fact, indeed one of only a few in the world doing so. And technologically at Archer, we do have a unique value proposition that holds up as a world first, and that it’s, we’re building a qubit processor that could potentially allow for quantum computation at room temperature and onboard modern devices. It’s important to take these two facets together because this for quantum computing is an astounding proposition and an important distinction to make, I believe.

It’s one that we can really back up with years of R&D and yes, we’ve already started building our technology and yes, we work in world-class facilities. And yes, we work with some of the brightest minds to do it. And indeed with undoubted leaders in computing like IBM to demonstrate that our technology works. And it’s important, you know, to really share with you our vision. And it’s a really simple one. And that’s to make quantum computing accessible.

The era of quantum being pie in the sky is over. And I just wanna let you know that we believe that our growth is really not a result of overnight success. It is a result of the quality of work we’re doing, the quality of people at Archer, and the quality of the organizations we work with. In 2021, Archer was a company in transition. And today I will, you know, really focus my talk on our flagship quantum computing technology.

But I think it would be remiss of me if I don’t really go over the year that has been. I mean, it’s been a very special year for Archer, and really the undoubted highlights of 2021 were in the granting of our patents, the technology advances we made, our commercial partnerships, and expanding our access to the deep tech infrastructure we need to develop our technologies. The granting of our patents this year related to our 12CQ quantum computing qubit process, that’s what we call it, 12CQ and it was an important achievement.

We had our patents granted in Japan, South Korea, China, and the U.S. This is so important for us because quantum computing is not a fast-follower industry. For Archer to participate in the global semiconductor industry, we must have patent protection in the largest economies in the world. We must protect our commercial interests that would potentially allow us to exploit the technology over the long term. And patents are one possible way that allows us to do that.

And the reality is, all that aside, we’re one of the few companies in the world, in the semiconductor industry with a patent portfolio, protecting quantum computing chip technology. Let’s get into it. I mean, quantum computing, what is it all about? Why is it so revolutionary and, you know, really is it that believable? I think, you know, really the first question to answer and I’ll stay on this slide for a little while, is how is quantum computing different to modern-day computing?

I mean, you see a lot of talks today from different organizations and you look at the semiconductor industry as a whole. But really I can sum it up by saying that quantum computing is a whole new way of computing. It requires a new set of skills and new technology. We’re not building a modern delay and logic silicon-based transistor processor that does quantum. We are now entering the world of quantum logic.

Computing really is silently undergoing a revolution but look, it’s important to note that quantum computing is not envisioned to throw out your modern-day computing. Quite the contrary. However, this new way of computing requires a critical piece of technology, a device. And this device is called a qubit processor. And I’ll just refer to this as a quantum chip. And at the heart of this chip, we really going down to the fundamentals here, is a qubit and qubits come in different forms, which means no one quantum chip, and in that regard, quantum computer, is necessarily the same.

And unlike modern computers that are, you know, based on silicon and use transistors and the like, where you get different devices for different things, qubits in a similar way, the qubits used really act as a way to limit the scope of the quantum machines that are built both technologically and I wanted to go as far to say commercially.

It takes years, you know, to develop the technology required for quantum computing. This is not something that you just get up and make in six months. It really is a technology that it is drawing the attention of our governments, of organizations around the world. And if there have ever been a time for people to really appreciate the potential of quantum to make an impact on greater productivity, I believe it’s now.

And you would’ve seen the federal government’s commitment to developing a quantum industry in the country, in Australia. And look, Archer is well into the fore in that picture. But really what I wanted to say here on this slide is that there has been a demonstrated commitment by the biggest economies in the world that quantum computing is going to happen. And what’s important, you know, is that at Archer we’re not playing catch up.

So on that note, it’s really important for me to actually go into what we’re doing at Archer, what stage of development we’re at. And I hope that you can appreciate that we’re not doing this alone. So the most important point on this slide here is the last point. And it’s that our proposal, our qubit architecture has the potential to operate at room temperature and integrate into modern-day devices.

And how is that so different than everybody else out there? Well, you know, these qubits are very hard to control. They’re very hard to sense, very hard to detect, very hard to measure, and these devices are very difficult to build. And to date, a lot of the different architectures or proposals have relied on cooling systems, has relied on photonics, lasers, has relied on developing very unique materials that require very sophisticated nanotechnology, very high or low pressures. You know, all sorts of exotic science, exotic things.

But I wanted to really sum it up with this slide here, which I think is probably the most important slide of my presentation. If you have a look here on the left, the silhouette is there to represent what you would probably see if you Googled quantum computing. It’s the beautiful copper and gold-looking chandelier. Now, these are the quantum computing systems that you see today.

These are the beautiful, elegant, cooling systems that go down to a superconducting chip that uses qubits that are generated at really low temperatures. Temperatures that are like, you know, not even found in outer space, even cold than outer space. And then you have proposals where qubits could operate at room temperature but require a physical presence again. It requires to be installed on-site, needs high vacuum systems, needs photonics. Again, difficult to integrate into modern electronics.

And then you have this well, class of device where we’ve dubbed quantum powered mobile devices. And really if you were to, you know, look ahead and say, “Well, what could potentially be the impact of Archer’s development?” Well, it’s in the development of quantum-powered mobile devices. Having a qubit architecture that could potentially integrate into modern electronics.

We’re not trying to build the whole computer. We’re trying to build the chip. And we are trying to integrate this chip for use in quantum-powered mobile devices. But I mean, what do I mean by that? QP MDs, it’s no longer really a secret that quantum computing would give nations a competitive advantage. And I think you’ve heard nations talk about this. It’s because quantum computers and machines have the potential to address all sectors dependent on computational power.

Each of these sectors could benefit tremendously with the advent of advanced computing like quantum computing and especially QP MDs. But, you know, generally speaking, a lot of times I get asked, “Mohammad, you know, where is your stuff gonna be applied? How long is it gonna take? You know, who’s gonna get there first?”

But look, generally speaking, a consensus is emerging in the quantum economy around, pardon me, applications of quantum computing at tech maturity. There are several computational problems which quantum machines could be beneficial. And these, you know, several problems lead to hundreds of business use cases that are envisioned to really unlock value for end-users in the coming decades.

Let’s not forget that the silicon semiconductor industry was built of 60, 70 years and trillions of dollars. And for quantum computing, it’s important to note that, you know, this value is envisioned as the tech hardware matures. And this is why I continue to stress that value now in quantum computing is linked to hardware development. And the key for Archer is really in, you know, at this stage of development in quantum computing in the quantum computing industry, indeed, it’s early for everyone.

It’s not just early for Archer, it’s early for everyone. Yes, we see it in the news. Yes, we see the newspaper articles in the media but it’s early. And the important thing for Archer is in positioning our technology where there are clear benefits for mobile use. And we are already working with other members of the IBM Quantum Network as a member of the IBM Quantum Network, the global invite-only Quantum Network to do this, as we should be.

But look, some of you still may be wondering, Archer is a small outfit. I know Marc used that word previously for other organizations, small outfits. How can we do it? How can we compete? The reality is we’re not doing it by ourselves. And we are already in partnership with an undoubted world leader in computing, in IBM. Our focus at Archer is in building the chip and working with IBM and our other partners to demonstrate it works.

I mean, this slide here, it’s just there to illustrate what we see when we access real quantum computers. Yes, we have access to real quantum computers. The principal point about showing you this is to demonstrate that quantum computing is real. And if there was ever a time for me to say, build it and they will come, just ask IBM. I mean, over 350,000 users over the last few years implementing billions of quantum circuits each day.

It’s absolutely incredible where the field is going and where it has been, you know, and where it’s come from. I hope that today I’ve painted, you know, a broad picture of what we do as a high-tech semiconductor company in Australia. I think, yeah, you’ll be surprised to learn just how many Australians there are around the world that are actually leading the way in quantum computing. And I know that you’ll also appreciate that you can’t stand still as a company.

At Archer, we’re constantly looking to expand our strategy but in keeping with our main focus. And, you know, some of you may have heard of our development of our biochip and how our biochip technology fits in with our focus. But like I said today, I will only talk about our quantum computing technology. But briefly, this Biochip, these lab-on-chip devices are some of the most sophisticated devices in medical diagnostics and are emerging as a platform technology.

And, you know, the Biochip development at Archer is a result and outcome of broader creative thinking at Archer. And I think it’s important to also make a distinction here that we are focused on the chip, the Biochip, and not the concept of point of care. The chip itself is the paradigm. And I wanted to emphasize briefly just before we move on, that the Biochip development doesn’t come at the expense of the ones 12CQ chip.

We’re adding resources to concentrate on progressing both our technologies the way we should be. So in the interests of time, I know that, Marc, you have a lot of questions but in the interests of time, in summary, what I will say is, is Archer is growing into a semiconductor company. That is our strategy now, and that’s our strategy going forward.

We have well-defined commercial roadmaps for our technologies, and we’re at a point, you know, really where we need to be. And what you’ll see if you look back at our progress to date is what I believe a track record of high impact outcomes. It’s not based on a single metric. Which is, you know, really typical. I think what you’ve seen today is typical of other industries.

We have a lot to look forward to at Archer in the year ahead, and I’m not gonna get, you know, very granular here but we do look forward to reaching our interim milestones that are, you know, very important in their own right to help track our progress. But the milestones are related to our technology development, our commercial partnerships, and our IP. Our focus still remains very sharply on our quantum work and related semiconductor operations.

Some of you may be following, our recent capital raising was about placing the company in a strong cash position over the next few years. And really our staff members will increase as we set out on the next stage of our development. So look, I hope to convey to you today some of the work that we’re doing and what Archer is all about and how we’re doing, and really how eminently worthwhile it is. And I guess on that note, thank you very much for your attention. Marc, I’ll open it for questions. I know you have heaps and we can take it from there.

Marc: Excellent. Thank you, Mohammad. Yeah, you’re right. We do have a lot of questions. I guess looking at the… And this is a personal question coming from me, I should say, looking at the different things that you’re working on, what, if any, are the R&D synergies, for instance, between the quantum computing aspect of it and the Biochip, are there similarities where one can leverage of the other?

Mohammad: Yeah, absolutely. You know, we have a multidisciplinary team here at Archer and I know that you’ve come along, Marc, and you’ve seen the facilities we operate out of. And it becomes a lot clearer when you see everyone under the one roof. When we’re all under the one roof and all working together. So there are skills that you can leverage from people within the Biochip team, especially around nanofabrication with different elements of the device.

Especially as we work down towards, you know, reaching best in class capabilities around different component sizes, the different kinds of lithography that’s used, and the chip manufacturing or the chip development towards manufacturing scale. So, absolutely there are synergies between the two different teams, if you wanna call them at Archer. But there are also clear differentiators. Quantum computing is quantum computing and biological information processing is biological information processing.

Marc: We’ve got some questions about patents. So I’ll try to bundle them up. The first one is about the Australian patent when that is expected. And also, let me just scroll down here. How many more patents do you expect to be granted at some point to come forward?

Mohammad: I can’t speculate on when patents can be granted and the outcomes and things like this. All I could say is that it’s moving, it’s progressing. We’re going through the prosecution process in Australia. We’ve done our bit and we continue to do our bit there. It’s actually, you know, really exciting to think where we are. You know, it took way before I joined Archer getting these patents up and running and going through the prosecution process, which can be pretty complex.

I mean, we’re talking about international jurisdictions, different laws, different customs, different ways countries do things. I guess, to answer that question, we are progressing forward with our prosecution with our IP related to 12CQ in Europe and Australia, and Hong Kong, which remains in that portfolio. But we obviously will continue to look to grow our IP portfolio.

We’re a technology company. I mean, that’s what technology companies do. They aim to grow their IP portfolio. And this is something that is indeed part of our strategy, which is why I said, you know, what to look forward to next year is absolutely, you know, it’s linked. It’s linked to our commercialization goals and progress, and also our technology development.

But the important thing to note, you need people. People generate IP. AI isn’t there yet. Our focus moving forward as well is on… And I know you’re gonna ask me, Marc, around what the risk is. Come on, you can ask me and I can lead you into it but, you know, it’s growing our team and getting those people that have a very high degree of intellectual excellence that’s required to drive this IP forward.

Marc: All right. Can you talk a little bit about the timelines for quantum computing developing? Because you’ve got a couple of companies that have been working on their specific technologies for a long time and semiconductor development, everything takes longer than you think. Can you talk a little bit about what you expect Archer’s timelines to be for that?

Mohammad: Yeah. Look, I mean, I can talk about the quantum computing field in general, and then we can talk about Archer in that context. I mean, I’ve absolutely, no problem discussing that. It’s no secret. I mean, if you have a look at the roadmaps of companies like IBM and others, and if you follow the reports by BCG that have been looking at the business of quantum computing and technology for many years, you see that this is not an 18-month thing.

This is not a 12-month thing. We’re in the current stage where quantum computers can do some things. They’re pretty noisy. Now, I’ll put that into context. Delay and logic was around for a long time before your transistors, before your devices, before your computers. It just turned out that transistors were pretty cool because one, they can convert something into electronic signal. They can be miniaturized, scaled and were error-proof.

So when you use your computer, you can feel confident your computer works. So with quantum computing, this is not the case. We don’t have that kind of silver bullet solution to the wide-scale use and accessibility of quantum computing. We’re in an era of what is being dubbed as this noisy, intermediate quantum era. And it’s really just demonstrating a proof of concept that quantum computers work. And they can actually be useful for something.

And so the timelines have been given 5, 10, 15 years, 20 years. But this is not to be scared of. This is not to say that there isn’t value to be added along the way. I mean, have a look at our own and other companies’ trajectories over the last few years in regards to the value that they’ve been generating. And like I said, intimately and inherently linked to the technology to the hardware.

The hardware, we built the hardware, we built the processes because the algorithms are there. So people are working on quantum algorithms. People are working on quantum neural networks and different kinds of applications. But the reason why we build the quantum hardware is to run these algorithms that can then give you potential speedups over classical computing. That’s where the value lies.

So in terms of timelines, you know, Archer is no different than everyone else out there. I mean, what you see in the media and what you’re seeing with these headline kind of funding and cap raises, fact deals, and whatever, these are years. This has come to fruition after years of development of companies that you had never heard of 5, 10, 15 years ago that are now really bearing some fruit to what they’re doing and coming out in the open and really undergoing that level of scrutiny that we go under every day.

Marc: Yep. All right.

Mohammad: Hope that answers that question. I’m not pitter-pattering around the bush. It’s years. It’s not a few months or a couple of months or 18 months to Marcet and all this kind of stuff. You’re really developing a technology that is a world first, and we can’t forget that it is something that has not been built before anyway.

Marc: Look, in that light, it might be hard to answer but we have a number of questions about the… technical questions really about how to integrate potentially with the chip. When you’ve got a chip, a commercially available chip, for instance, in mobile devices at that point in time, and this is combining two questions in one, how you would slot in with development roadmaps for existing hardware manufacturers, like mobile phone manufacturers, like Apple or someone else. And I know, again, it’s some time out, I guess but maybe you can sort of talk about that. How you see that progressing.

Mohammad: Look, I can’t go into too much detail without signing 170 something NDAs. 200 NDAs. Especially when you ask, how are you going to do something, that taps into our IP? But there is a lot of publicly available information already. And without having to hear it come out of my mouth, I would encourage people listening today to have a read of our “Nature Communications” paper. Have a read of the patent specifications.

There is a lot of detail in there. There is a lot of information in there. You know, it can really help you draw your own conclusions. I’ve already said that the qubit already lends itself to be able to be integrated onboard modern-day electronics. It boils down to the quantum system that is within this material. It all goes down to materials because materials are the tangible physical basis of all technology.

Yes, there are challenges that we’re gonna face moving forward in how to do this. No one’s ever done this before. And, you know, we’re doing what we need to do now to address those issues. We’ve already gone out with some announcements early on to demonstrate that we’ve addressed some challenges that were present in other systems, for example, around qubit scalability.

Where, you know, questions around, how are you going to position individual qubits on a silicon wafer? The fact that we can do this already is absolutely astounded. I mean, the fact that we can pick and place our qubits where we want on a silicon wafer and then start to build electrodes around our qubit.

I mean, we’ve gone down to the level where we’ve picked up a single qubit and measured the conductivity across the single-qubit and done this on a silicon wafer and shown that these characteristics are in line with what you would expect the qubit to undergo within a chip architecture at a very early stage of our development. So it’s all there. You just gotta pack it together.

Marc: Yeah, sure. And look, your approach is quite different from what others have done in the past when it comes to quantum computing. So we have a question about keeping quantum state stable at room temperature. But your approach is fundamentally different. Maybe can you at a high level for the layperson talk a little bit about that because I think that’s really interesting because you have a fundamentally different approach to doing this?

Mohammad: Yeah. And look, I’ll go back to the material itself. Their approach is using carbon. The field in quantum computing and I go back to the “Nature Communications” paper that was published, it’s freely accessible. You can download it and have a read of that. What you would’ve noticed in quantum computing for many years, there was this kind of materials dichotomy in the field.

You could either have material. So for solid-state devices, I’m not talking about, you know, other kinds of exotic systems, for solid-state devices, because this ties into your devices that you use. That’s what they are, they’re solid-state. You have this situation where if you wanted to do quantum computing with say silicon or other kinds of materials, you had to go down to a really low temperature to stabilize that quantum information and access that quantum information.

It’s not me who said that. That’s just the way physics works. It’s not a matter of just turning up the dial. It’s not a systematic approach where, you know, we’ll just keep clunking up the thermostat until we get to room temperature. There were fundamental limitations. And then, on the other hand, you had materials where, you know, you could do quantum computing at room temperature but very difficult to integrate into electronics for whatever reason, whether it be the infrastructure around it that is needed or the material itself didn’t lend itself to being integrated on all devices. And then the material that I came up with many years ago and we tested and we showed that you can drive these coherent quantum states at room temperature, it’s all there, kind of unified the two aspects. You could do, you know, this qubit manipulation at room temperature at lifetimes that were, you know, viable for, you know, quantum computation and spintronics.

And you also had a material that was quite easy to make, easy to handle, easy to process, and could be readily available. And at the same time, it was a material that had a very unique system, this qubit architecture, I can’t go into too much detail there, which lends itself to being integrated onboard devices. And really it kind of unified that materials dichotomy. So, yeah, quite special.

Marc: All right. And here’s a question about partners. I think you talked about that a little bit, someone’s asking just if you can repeat who your partners are and what your expectations are for partnering up with others going forward.

Mohammad: Yeah. Well, we have a long list of people we work with and, you know, I can name a few. So we are part of the IBM Quantum Network, it’s a global network made up of about 150 Fortune 500 companies, national research facilities, startups, R&D labs. We work with IBM and you know, members of the IBM Quantum Network, for example, with Max Kelsen, another Aussie team. They’re up in Queensland. Well, they’re big data in AI, they’re also part of the IBM Q Network.

We also recently agreed to work with the Australian Institute for Machine Learning over in Adelaide. Absolutely fantastic there to focus on, like I said, those end uses. And speaking of end uses, I know, you know, national priorities always win and so very happy to be, you know, involved with the Australian Missile Corporations’ push for our national sovereign guided weapon system, missile system.

So, you can see there that there are a lot of different areas and aspects where quantum has an ability to touch upon and to be used. But for us at Archer, very early on it’s to work with partners who can help us with our development and also demonstrate the end-use applications. So these are two areas where I guess people are most concerned.

Marc: Well, we’ve had a whole bunch of questions. We’ve got time for one more, unfortunately. Time is flying today.

Mohammad: This is why I kept my talk short just for the investors and shareholders listening. Yeah, I did shrink it. I shrunk it because I know that I always get these questions.

Marc: That’s clever. So last question then, Mohammad. And I think this is really interesting. Again, it’s a bit early days but when you get to the point of a commercially available chip based on your technology, what would that mean for existing chip players or the ones that are actually sort of emerging right now? Like some of the ones that we’re hearing from today, what does it mean when you’ve got a chip based on quantum computing at room temperature? How does that distort the Marcetplace, or disrupt I should say?

Mohammad: Well, I think it’ll be absolutely fantastic news for the Marcet. I mean, there’s no reason why your phone needs to displace or outdo, or, you know, do something. I mean, the whole point of your phone being different to a supercomputer in the cloud is because they offer different kinds of functionality, different kinds of end-use. So I think the ultimate goal for us at Archer and those who share our values, is to make quantum computing more accessible.

And so for us, at this early stage, we don’t see it being something that, you know, would be frowned upon. I think it’s something that would be welcomed as a potential solution to the widespread use of quantum computing. We’re absolutely excited by it. Those who we work with are absolutely excited by it. And, you know, think about it realistically. I mean, to consider that you’re only ever gonna have one kind of quantum computer doing one kind of problem-solving, I think is a bit naive.

We need to take the lessons from computing that we’ve seen to date. And we also have to acknowledge the pragmatism and reality of quantum computing that it’s not gonna solve everything. It will work hand in hand with the computers and processors that we have today, but at the same time, the will most likely be quantum computers or quantum computing devices or machines are built for different kinds of end uses.

Marc: All right. Excellent. Well, unfortunately, we have to leave it there, Mohammad. Thank you very much for joining us today. It’s been very insightful and, yeah, we’ll keep a close eye on announcements because I think this is an extremely exciting space to be in. Thank you very much.

Mohammad: Yeah, no worries. Thanks for having me. Bye, everyone.