Analysts hail “significant opportunity” for UK quantum computing sector as government bolsters funding support

UK Quantum Computing Lab stock image with quantum computer in gold in centre with GPU and server racks lining outside of room.
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The UK quantum computing sector has an opportunity to establish itself as a leading European innovation hub, according to analysts, as the government continues to pledge financial support. 

Lee Brown, partner at EY Analytics and AI lead, said a recent government funding pledge will boost the development of transformational quantum technologies and position the country as a leading force in this emerging market.

"There’s a significant opportunity for quantum in the UK, which is already home to the largest number of quantum startups in Europe and attracts more capital investment than any other European competitor," he said.

"The UK has all the attributes to become a scientific and technologic superpower – it’s already home to relevant industrial players and boasts a vibrant R&D environment and an experienced telecommunications and cyber security base."

Brown’s comments follow news that the government will offer £45 million in funding for the quantum computing sector, including £30 million to go to the development of seven quantum testbeds at the National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC).

The cash boost will come through the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Technology Missions Fund and the NQCC, as part of a funding competition delivered by Innovate UK.

The seven companies involved in developing the testbeds include Sheffield-based Aegiq, Cold Quanta UK, London's ORCA Computing, Rigetti UK, Quantum Motion, Oxford Ionics and Exeter-based QuEra Computing.

Under the investment scheme, the firms will be given financial support to develop, build, and commission operationally ready quantum computing testbeds at NQCC - prototype hardware on which to run and refine quantum algorithms.


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Dr Michael Cuthbert, director of NQCC, said the move will help establish a vital insight into the “maturity, characteristics, and capabilities” of quantum computing across a variety of hardware architectures.

Cuthbert added that the scheme could herald an exciting new phase of growth for the UK quantum computing sector.

"The 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,” he said.

An additional £15 million in funding will also be granted to seven public sector quantum projects through the Quantum Catalyst Fund, the government confirmed this week.

This investment will support the development of a high-tech brain scanner using quantum technology to improve the diagnosis of disorders such as epilepsy and dementia. 

Other projects include the creation of a quantum-based smart navigation system for trains that uses sensors to save costs and enhance safety in tunnels.

The winners of the second phase of the competition will receive funding from the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) fund to build physical prototypes for the government agency or department that is sponsoring them.

Growing support for the UK quantum computing sector

Ian West, head of technology at KPMG UK, echoed Brown’s comments on the potential of the UK quantum computing sector, noting that the latest funding announcement will provide valuable support during a critical period in the industry’s growth. 

"Organizations have typically taken a cautious approach to quantum technology, but today’s investment in specific industries and targeted projects will help bring clarity to give businesses more confidence in the technology to solve problems within their own four walls," he said.

The funding builds on a long-standing government ambition to position the UK as a global leader in quantum computing.

Last year, Downing Street unveiled the National Quantum Strategy, which saw more than £2.5 billion in funding pledged to accelerate the development of quantum technologies over the next decade.

This was followed by a fresh funding boost in November that saw £14 million allocated to launch a UK Quantum Standards Network.

The pilot scheme aims to establish global standards for quantum technologies and ensure responsible use and development.

"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," said Professor Will Drury, executive director, digital and technologies at Innovate UK.

"This could be transformative for life in the UK, and will create new, well-paid jobs that will boost our future economy."

Emma Woollacott

Emma Woollacott is a freelance journalist writing for publications including the BBC, Private Eye, Forbes, Raconteur and specialist technology titles.