UK government ramps up quantum funding in bid to drive commercial viability

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The UK government has announced more than £14 million in funding to boost support for quantum technologies as it looks to build on its National Quantum Strategy. 

The announcement includes the launch of a UK Quantum Standards Network Pilot aimed at establishing global standards for quantum. The scheme will be led by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in collaboration with government and industry partners.

"This network pilot will be a major component in maintaining the UK as a world leader and influencer in this exciting and game changing field," says Rhys Lewis, head of quantum programmes at NPL. 

"The coordinated approach, tested and developed in the pilot, will be a significant input into a future UK Quantum Standard Centre."

Meanwhile, six projects have netted £10.6 million to accelerate the development of components and systems for quantum network technologies.

These include the creation of modular systems for connecting quantum processors into networks at scale, and developing high-bandwidth quantum-secure communications between satellite and ground networks. 

Both projects aim to develop deployable prototypes that can be used by businesses by 2025.

There are also two new agreements to cooperate with Australia and the Netherlands, as well as investment of £4.2 million in 11 projects aimed at strengthening collaborative research and development with Canada. 

These deals should see the development of real-world quantum technologies for commercial use in networking, sensing, and scalable solutions to quantum computing, as well as at strengthening the supply chain.

The government also last week announced a partnership between the recently-created National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC) and IBM, through which UK researchers will get cloud access to IBM Quantum’s Premium Plan, including the company's quantum computing systems.

"The agreement with IBM will enable the NQCC to provide utility-scale quantum computing resources for the UK’s vibrant research community, which will open up new avenues of fundamental and applied research, with the prospect of boosting the development of novel technologies and drive new discoveries," said NQCC director Dr Michael Cuthbert.

The NQCC’s first facility, the NQCC Innovation Hub, is now starting to build quantum computing testbeds, based on different hardware architectures and set to be complete by March 2025.

UK government betting big on quantum

With claims that the UK ranks third in the world for the quality and impact of its quantum research, the government is betting big on the technology.

The National Quantum Strategy involves the development of quantum technologies for commercial use, backed with £2.5 billion in funding over 10 years from 2024. 

As part of the strategy, the government hopes it will attract at least an additional £1 billion of private investment. 

The government said it aims to ensure that all businesses in key sectors of the UK will be aware of the potential of quantum technologies by 2033, with at least three quarters of relevant businesses having started to prepare.


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"We have identified quantum as one of the five transformational technologies in which the UK is a global leader," said George Freeman, minister of state at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

"Quantum is set to transform computing, imaging and sensing, cyber security and position, navigation and timing with major industrial applications from drug discovery to defense, fintech, and much more." 

However, as Richard Parasram, head of delivery at the Office for Quantum recently warned, raising private investment is becoming increasingly difficult.

"We must also caution against overhyping capabilities for what will remain emergent technologies for many years," he said. 

"There remains a perceived high barrier to entry for this fiendishly capricious technology, and we know there will be unintended consequences of advances, some of which will need innovative regulation."

Emma Woollacott

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