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UK government invests £45M into quantum tech projects from healthtech to energy

Quantum tech
Picture credits: Serg0403/DepositPhotos

Quantum technologies are claimed to hold the potential to tackle intricate problems that currently surpass the capacities of even the most advanced classical computers. It will allow us to reach new sensing, timing, imaging, and communications frontiers. Realising this potential, the UK government announced a £45 million investment in the quantum sector. 

Over the next ten years, quantum technologies are expected to revolutionise many aspects of life in the UK and bring enormous benefits such as helping to grow our economy and create well-paid jobs across the country. This is one of the five priorities of the UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. 

The National Quantum Strategy, published in March 2023, commits £2.5 billion to developing quantum technologies in the UK over the ten years from 2024 – more than doubling current public investment, which will aim to generate an additional £1 billion of private investment into the program.

Investment strategy 

During a visit to Cerca Magnetics, a University of Nottingham spin-out company supported through the National Quantum Technologies Programme, Science Minister Andrew Griffith announced this investment. 

The UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Technology Missions Fund and the UK’s National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC) have invested £30 million through a competition to develop and deliver world-leading quantum computing hardware prototypes.  

Another £15 million from the Quantum Catalyst Fund is set to accelerate the use of quantum in government. Both initiatives will enable quantum technologies to be used in real-life applications, both in the private and public sectors.

Science Minister, Andrew Griffith MP, said: “As we steer towards an economy benefitting from quantum, this further £45 million in funding underscores our commitment to support bright UK innovators who are pushing boundaries and seizing the potential of this technology to transform our public services. The UK is already one global leader in quantum and to maintain that position this government will continue to invest in this transformational technology propelling the UK into a new era of technological prowess and economic growth.”

Dr Kedar Pandya, Executive Director, Cross-Council Programmes at UKRI, said: “We are on the brink of a quantum technology revolution that is poised to transform diverse industries from the financial sector to healthcare, and UKRI is committed to ensuring the UK’s place at the forefront of this. We are providing our world-leading businesses and institutions the resources and tools needed to build a strong foundation in quantum computing with the potential to scale their activities for long-term competitive advantage.”

Quantum-enabled economy by 2023

The Quantum Catalyst Fund aims to fast-track the integration of quantum solutions in the public sector, positioning the UK government to leverage the diverse advantages of quantum technologies across different policy areas. This ranges from optimising power grids to improving the diagnosis of dementia. 

This investment from the UK government will accelerate the use of quantum technology to improve healthcare, energy, transport, and more. He also revealed how the funding supports the government’s vision to transform into a quantum-enabled economy by 2033. 

Competition for quantum concepts  

UKRI and NQCC will invest in projects to create world-leading quantum computing testbeds based on various technologies. These testbeds will speed up the development of scalable quantum computers and provide a practical way to test and validate their performance, moving beyond just theoretical approaches. Seven projects will set up testbeds using different quantum computing platforms, including trapped-ion, superconducting, photonics, and neutral atoms.

A competition will be delivered by Innovate UK, part of UKRI, in conjunction with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT). During an initial 3-month phase 1 of the competition, feasibility studies were conducted to explore the application of quantum technologies in addressing governmental challenges. 

The six most promising concepts selected for phase 2 will now receive funding to develop prototypes and demonstrate their solutions.

Dr Michael Cuthbert, Director of the National Quantum Computing Centre, said: “My congratulations to the lead providers of our seven awarded quantum testbeds. Over the coming 15 months, these prototype quantum computing platforms will be deployed into the newly established NQCC facility providing us with a valuable insight into the maturity, characteristics, and capabilities available across a range of hardware architectures. This next phase of the NQCC will be one of huge promise establishing a unique state-of-the-art facility with on-premises access to a range of qubit modalities at scale.”

Professor Will Drury, Executive Director, Digital and Technologies at Innovate UK said: “Quantum technologies have the potential to meet some of the greatest challenges society faces. By unleashing computing power that goes far beyond existing digital technology, we can reach new frontiers in sensing, timing, imaging, and communications. This could be transformative for life in the UK and will create new, well-paid jobs that will boost our future economy.”

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