New technologies on show at Quantum Showcase as Science Minister drives forward UK’s £2.5 billion Quantum Strategy

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Science Minister George Freeman at Quantum Showcase 23 with quantum start-ups, investors and industry partners. Photo credit: UK Gov / George Freeman. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 DEED

The Science Minister George Freeman will today (Thursday 2 November) outline the recipients of over £14 million in funding, aimed at benefiting the UK’s thriving quantum sector.

At the UK National Quantum Technologies Showcase, taking place in London today, Minister Freeman will set out how the government is continuing with its vision to become a quantum-enabled economy by 2023.

The showcase will present the latest in ground-breaking applications of the technology which will potentially revolutionise many aspects of life in the UK. Quantum technologies could bring enormous benefits to the economy, such as making it possible to solve complex problems impossible to solve with even the most powerful high-performance classical computers, and opening entirely new frontiers in sensing, timing, imaging, and communications.

The event, which last year welcomed over 1,000 delegates, with 67 exhibitors from 34 different countries, is organised by National Quantum Technologies Programme, which was established in 2014 and backed by £1 billion of government funding.

The National Quantum Strategy, published in March 2023, commits a further £2.5 billion to developing quantum technologies in the UK over the 10 years from 2024 which will aim to generate at least an additional £1 billion of private investment into the programme. 

The announcements made by Minister Freeman today will include:

  • the launch of a UK Quantum Standards Network Pilot that will help to ensure that the UK is at the forefront of establishing global standards for quantum
  • over £10 million in funding for 6 projects to accelerate the development of components and systems for quantum network technologies to transform the way in which we distribute, secure, and process our information to meet the challenges of our increasingly complex data economy
  • over £4 million to strengthen collaborative research and development through Canada-UK partnerships to develop real-world quantum technologies for commercial use
  • the National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC) closing its £30 million competition to provide quantum computing testbeds, alongside a partnership with IBM to provide users cloud access to IBM’s full fleet quantum machines
  • a new science and innovation agreement with the Netherlands to deepen collaboration on quantum which will see closer cooperation covering research and development, commercialisation, investment, and skills

George Freeman MP, Minister of State at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology said:

“We have identified Quantum as one of the 5 transformational technologies in which the UK is a global leader, which is why we have set out a £2.5 billion 10 year industrial strategy to support the quantum sector here in the UK.

“Quantum is set to transform computing, imaging and sensing, cyber security and position, navigation and timing with major industrial applications from drug discovery to defence, fintech, and much more. That is why I am here today at the Quantum Showcase to announce this package of UK funding and programmes.

“Our partnership between the National Quantum Computing Centre and IBM will provide cloud quantum computing access for companies, agencies, national labs and other organisations to help boost UK quantum computing infrastructure. Our £30 million quantum testbed programme will build the world’s first quantum computing testbed to assess and benchmark machines. Our funding for collaborative programmes with the Netherlands and Canada is a sign of our commitment to develop global quantum standards and networks.

“This is an exciting day for the UK quantum sector.”

Quantum technologies – one of the government’s 5 critical technologies – are devices and systems using quantum mechanics to provide capabilities that ‘classical’ machines like binary computers cannot.

The technology already offers possible solutions to some of our greatest challenges in society and provide future capabilities that are yet to be explored. These technologies hold the potential to tackle intricate problems that currently surpass the capacities of even the most advanced classical computers and will allow us to reach new frontiers in sensing, timing, imaging, and communications. Over the next 10 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 – one of the Prime Minister’s 5 priorities.

The National Quantum Strategy sets out a bold and ambitious approach to supporting quantum technologies in the UK across the broad spectrum of quantum computing, sensing, timing, imaging and communications. It shows how the UK will develop its strengths across different hardware platforms, software and components, and reinforce our capabilities throughout the supply chains.

Just last month, Secretary of State Michelle Donelan opened PsiQuantum’s new state-of-the-art research and development (R&D) facility at Sci-Tech Daresbury, which is supported with £9 million from the government. In June, Minister Freeman announced £45 million in funding to support universities and businesses working in the UK’s quantum technologies sector.

Details of the announcements

Small Business Research Initiative competition – Quantum Networks, Enabling Components & Systems

As part of the Innovate UK led Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition, 6 projects have been awarded £10.6 million to accelerate the development of components and systems for quantum network technologies.

These technologies will transform the way in which we distribute, secure, and process our information to meet the challenges of a communication network that is growing in capacity and complexity as our economy becomes increasingly underpinned by data. The funding will assist in the delivery of deployable prototypes into the hands of customers, building the UK’s leadership in this emerging global market.

The projects chosen to receive funding include delivering modular systems for connecting quantum processors into networks at scale and developing high-bandwidth quantum-secure communications between satellite and ground networks, they are set to conclude in 2025.

Quantum Standards Network Pilot

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), in collaboration with government and industry partners, will launch a UK Quantum Standards Network Pilot. This pilot network builds on the commitments made in the National Quantum Strategy which recognises the importance of technical standards to support the global commercialisation of quantum technology. The pilot network will ensure the UK is at the forefront of establishing global standards for quantum. It will provide a focal point on standards for UK industry and develop initial plans for industry outreach, standard development road mapping and international engagement, helping overcome barriers to the realisation of the potential of quantum technologies.

The aim of the pilot network is to evolve into a centre that coordinates the UK’s engagement with global standards, ensuring that the UK continues to be at the forefront of the quantum revolution. NPL will collaborate with the British Standards Institution (BSI), the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), UKQuantum, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC) on the pilot network.

New quantum agreement with the Netherlands to deepen collaboration on quantum

During the showcase, Minister Freeman will sign a new quantum agreement with the Netherlands to help harness the constant creation of new knowledge, understanding and insights from both our innovation ecosystems. International partnerships will play a crucial role in delivering the UK’s ambitions for quantum technologies as set out within the National Quantum Strategy. The UK has already signed agreements with the US and Canada which set out areas for closer cooperation covering research and development, commercialisation, investment and skills.

The Netherlands have a strong history and culture of technology and the agreement will see a deepening of the collaboration on science and innovation between the 2 countries. It will also support efforts in both countries to develop ethical and governance principles for the responsible use of quantum technology, for the benefit of society as a whole.

Canada – UK Commercialising Quantum Technology Programme

Collaboration between key international partners will be essential to build mutual capabilities and to grow industrial opportunities within quantum technologies. Alongside the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), Innovate UK is investing £4.2 million in 11 projects to strengthen collaborative research and development through Canada-UK partnerships.

This funding will help to develop real-world quantum technologies for commercial use in networking, sensing, and scalable solutions to quantum computing, alongside developing the supply chain.

The National Quantum Computing Centre signs up service provider to offer assured quantum computing access for UK users for research

The NQCC will provide assured quantum computing access to UK-based organisations to drive the research and development work that may benefit from the technology. This reflects the NQCC’s vision to enable the UK to solve some of the most complex and challenging problems facing society by harnessing the potential of quantum computing. To deliver this, the NQCC will have multiple quantum service providers to enable the growth of the UK’s quantum computing user community, with access to a wide range of state-of-the-art quantum machines.

The objective is to drive new research horizons and serve the UK research community to enable proof-of-concept projects, feasibility studies and discovery-led science. As a part of the initiative, the NQCC will engage with IBM Corporation to provide UK-based quantum computing users priority access to the full fleet of IBM’s quantum machines. Aligned with the recently published National Quantum Strategy, and the commitment of £2.5 billion of investment, the NQCC remains committed to working with organisations across government, industry and the research community, to support the delivery of assured quantum computing capabilities for the UK and build the user community for quantum computing.

The centre seeks to enable the UK to become a quantum-ready nation and take full advantage of the benefits that quantum computing can offer, by supporting the UK-based organisations.

The NQCC’s first facility, the NQCC Innovation Hub, is now ready to start hosting the development and operation of quantum computing testbeds.

The NQCC is investing £30 million in projects that will deliver a series of quantum computing testbeds, based on different hardware architectures by March 2025. The prototypes that come from the competition, which is being delivered by Innovate UK, will accelerate the development of scalable quantum computers by enabling detailed characterisation and benchmarking of early-stage machines.

In establishing these quantum testbeds, the NQCC is aiming to fill a gap between lab-based experimentation in academia and the growing number of commercial quantum computers that have been built around proprietary technologies. The availability of testbeds will provide an experimental framework for ongoing efforts to develop methodologies for testing, and validating, the performance of quantum computers, which so far have largely relied on theoretical approaches. The initial response to the expression-of-interest call has shown that developers can see the value in opening up their platforms within the protected environment offered by the NQCC. The competition results will be announced in early 2024.

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