The UK budget will include an approximate £2.5 billion investment in quantum technologies, dubbed “The Plan for Quantum,” which reflecting both the vast potential of the technology and the nation’s desire to be a global leader in harnessing it.
“Today we will publish a quantum strategy which will set up our vision to be a world leading quantum enabled economy by 2033 with a research and innovation programme totalling £2.5bn,” said Chancellor Jeremy Hunt during the Spring Statement.
The strategy is available here.
The news, which was hinted at yesterday, quickly created interest and produced responses from the UK quantum ecosystem. We’ve gathered some of that reaction now.
UKQuantum, the industry body representing the voice of the UK Quantum industry said, “UKQuantum welcomes the government announcement of the £2.5 billion investment into the UK’s quantum industry in today’s budget. We look forward to working with Minister Freeman in progressing these important plans to enable the UK to benefit from our lead in this future multi-hundred billion pound industry.”
James Palles-Dimmock, CEO of Quantum Motion, said that UK’s global research leadership is a key reason for investing in the country’s quantum technology.
“The UK is becoming a low risk place to undertake high risk ventures, largely as a result of world leading research supported by government and successfully spun out of universities,” said Palles-Dimmock. “The National Quantum Technologies Programme (NQTP) was a key part of this and it is a considerable credit to people like Sir Peter Knight and Roger McKinlay who fly the flag for the sector.”
He added: “The next phase, with an increased budget of £2.5bn will put us at the forefront globally for governmental investment into quantum technologies, after some significant support from the US, Germany and China to their respective national programs. It is a big signal that the UK wants to build on the ‘unfair advantage’ that we have thanks to the work of the NQTP and our world leading universities and that we have a desire to see quantum technologies through to commercialisation. While the UK does have a large advantage in this area it is important that we still have the capacity to work collaboratively across borders. Manufacturing and talent are two key areas where the gains to be made from collaborative working significantly outweigh the risks and I will be keen to see how we can continue to welcome the best of world’s talent to the UK to allow us to continue to accelerate the realisation of these enabling technologies.”
Harvey Lewis, Partner of Client Technology & Innovation at EY said that the strategy is a nod to the reality of quantum technology.
“The release of the Government’s Quantum Strategy today is a signal that the ambition to prepare for and adopt quantum technologies amongst UK businesses must now become a reality. Quantum technology’s reach is far broader than those who actively use it, so from a competitive and cyber security perspective it is vital that investment in quantum-ready technologies takes place now – something our recent research with the NQCC highlighted UK companies are only starting to do.“The good news is the UK is well-positioned to realise the benefits of quantum. Here we have a world-class research base, a vibrant community of start-up and scale-up companies, established suppliers, and mature sectors that represent early adopters. It’s an incredibly exciting time and we’ve already been working closely with industry leaders who are doing a lot of great work to explore the multiple pathways by which it is progressing, an example of which is the Quantum Key Distribution trial EY is involved in with BT and Toshiba.However, optimism around quantum needs to be grounded in reality as much as strategy. An important reality at the moment that needs to be holistically addressed across an array of emerging technologies is of course skills. Human-centred innovation is critical to making any transformative technology a success and we must address the shortfall in skills and talent in order for technologies like quantum and AI to be used successfully.”
Steve Brierley, CEO & Founder of Riverlane, said the spending is welcomed — but cautioned to invest the funds wisely.
“We welcome the £2.5bn investment, which builds on the UK Government’s National Quantum Technologies Programme (NQTP) from 2014 and puts us on a parr with investments from other European countries,” said Brierley. “While the UK may not be able to match the spending power of the US and China, we are in a strong position thanks to our existing semiconductor and quantum expertise. The UK could become a quantum superpower, not by spending big but by spending smart – and on a specific area of the quantum computing stack.”
Brierley added that hardware should be a focus of the initiative.
“Every quantum computer consists of three layers: the quantum hardware, central control chips and applications. While investment in industry applications/algorithms is worth continuing – it will be for nothing if we don’t have high-quality, scalable chips and quantum hardware,” said Brierley. “If we develop the world’s central chip layer in parallel with developing the quantum hardware layer, this provides the UK with a smart, future-proofed quantum strategy. The chips are where the classical control electronics exist. Leadership in the middle layer of the quantum stack is a smart investment for the UK Government and where our existing quantum and semiconductor expertise lies. Every quantum computer (regardless of its hardware or application layers) needs this middle layer to operate – and the UK will be able to meet the global demand by designing and holding the IP for the chips to power every quantum computer in the world. If we also develop the leading quantum hardware in tangent – we could win twice.”
“If the UK owns the critical, middle layer of the quantum computing stack, then this represents a significant market opportunity. Simply put, without the quantum middle layer, the world cannot unlock the revolutionary applications (and economic advantages) that quantum computers could provide.”
“Quantum computers need chips capable of processing 100Tb of data per second – that’s about the same as Netflix global streaming – and it’s all happening in a single room. This is a major engineering challenge and one that companies around the world are addressing in the race to build a useful quantum computer. The UK has a leading position in chip design with companies like ARM and is now leveraging that lead in quantum.”
Ben Packman, head of strategy at British post-quantum cryptography company, PQShield said: “It’s great to see the government understanding the strategic importance of science and technology for the UK economy. The UK is home to many of the world’s leading quantum computing companies – more than any other country in Europe. In quantum-safe cryptography, British companies like ours are helping to set new standards that will shape the way the entire world will secure its data. We particularly welcome the government’s emphasis on quantum-related training and skills for academics, engineers and researchers. Having worked with different global organisations on cryptographic standard-setting, we know how valued British expertise in this area truly is.“None of this home-grown innovation would be possible if it wasn’t for the UK’s outstanding universities, thriving local venture capital market, and government funding through Innovate UK.”
Packman added a cross-government alignment will be necessary for the plan’s ultimate success.
“However, if the UK is to become a globally-recognised technology superpower by 2030, achievements like this should be shouted about from the very top,” said Packman. “It’s not just about funding – to market the UK’s quantum capabilities globally, the government needs to align all its departments, including bodies like GCHQ and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), MI5’s newly-created National Protective Security Authority (NPSA), regulators and industry on the same path.”