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Leading computer chip software design company buys Danish quantum simulators

Science Park Symbion. Photo, Mikal Schlosser

As computers grow smaller, the materials needed in their construction grow weirder. Predicting the properties of novel semiconductor materials could save chip-designers millions. A company based in Copenhagen Science City developed software doing just that. Now the global leader in electronic design automation (EDA) and semiconductor IP has snapped them up. By Jes Andersen.

Undisclosed but satisfying price

The buyers, US-based Synopsys Inc., sits on the majority of the market for semiconductor- development tools. They bought QuantumWise, based at science park SYMBION, for an amount that the founder, Kurt Stokbro, is not prepared to disclose.

“I signed an agreement four feet long saying, that I couldn’t. What I can say, is that the sum is compatible with what you would expect in the industry and that the owners are all satisfied. But I haven’t seen any Ferraris in the parking lot”, says Stokbro with a quiet laugh.

Unique capability became industry standard

QuantumWise was founded in 2003 in an unused office at the Nano-Science Center at University of Copenhagen. Previously, Kurt Stokbro and his research group had investigated methods to simulate the behaviour of electrical charges in molecules. Since a computer chip is essentially a machine for controlling electrical charges in a material, these methods had promise. No one else had this capability, and Stokbro’s first product, Atomistix ToolKit, has since become the industry standard.

“Experimentally investigating the properties of materials is very expensive. Simulating the materials with our software tells us what can work, and equally important what will not work. This means that research groups can save a lot of time in the laboratory”, says Stokbro.

Discreet unicorn in shared space

Since 2015, QuantumWise has been based at SYMBION, which is one of six science parks and innovation hubs in Copenhagen Science City. The 30 Copenhagen-based employees of QuantumWise share meeting rooms, bathrooms and a dining hall with some 190 other start-ups and scale-ups. The only visible sign that QuantumWise is more valuable than most of their neighbours, is two unicorn sock puppets hanging together with bicycle helmets and raincoats on the hat stand by the entrance. The fact that their new owners are headquartered in the US is not likely to change their location, says Stokbro.

“What we are selling is a technical and scientific product. It’s important for us to be in a location where collaborating with universities is easy, and that is certainly the case in Copenhagen Science City. In addition, Denmark, and Copenhagen, is a great location for this kind of work. Costs are lower than in Silicon Valley and the competence within our field is higher, besides we are able to attract highly competent co-workers from all over the world”, says Kurt Stokbro, and continues:

“Our ambition is to continue to grow the workforce in Copenhagen”.

The new name of QuantumWise will be Synopsys Denmark.