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Unlocking The Potential of Quantum: £45 Million Investment to Drive Breakthroughs in Brain Scanners, Navigation Systems And Quantum Computing

UK quantum investment

Insider Brief

  • The UK government is investing a total of £45 million in the country’s quantum sector – as part of its commitment to transforming into a quantum-enabled economy by 2033 – seizing this technology’s potential to overhaul healthcare, energy, transport and more.
  • £30 million investment will go to developing and delivering world-leading prototype quantum computers, providing scientists and engineers with a controlled environment for experimentation.
  • Winners of the £15 million Quantum Catalyst Fund announced to accelerate the adoption of quantum solutions by the public sector, on projects from optimising power grids through to improving diagnosis of dementia.

PRESS RELEASE — Accelerating the use of quantum technology to improve healthcare, energy, transport and more has received a major boost as Science Minister Andrew Griffith announces £45 million of investment today (Monday 5 February).

The projects receiving funding include the development of a high-tech brain scanner using quantum technology, aiming to improve the diagnosis of disorders such as epilepsy and dementia, and a smart navigation system for trains, using quantum sensors to save costs and enhance safety in tunnels. These initiatives represent cutting-edge advancements, being developed here in the UK, that could revolutionise healthcare and transport.

Quantum 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.

During a visit to Cerca Magnetics, a University of Nottingham spin-out company supported through the National Quantum Technologies Programme, Minister Griffith will outline how this £45 million funding supports the government’s vision to transform into a quantum-enabled economy by 2033.

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 use of quantum in government. Both initiatives will enable quantum technologies to be used in real-life applications, both in the private and public sector.

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.

“Cutting-edge work on a quantum enabled brain scanner, which will be a beacon of hope for those battling neurological conditions, is just one example.

“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.”

Quantum technologies are recognised as one of the government’s five critical technologies as set out in the UK Science and Technology Framework. They already offer possible solutions to some of society’s greatest challenges and provide future capabilities that are yet to be explored.

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 – one of the Prime Minister’s five priorities.

UKRI, in partnership with NQCC, is investing 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.

By running quantum algorithms on different hardware, the projects aim to identify which technology is most effective for specific types of problems. The winning companies will gain direct access to the expertise within the NQCC and its user community. Seven projects will set up testbeds using different quantum computing platforms, including trapped-ion, superconducting, photonics, and neutral atoms.

The £15 million Quantum Catalyst Fund aims to fast-track the integration of quantum solutions in the public sector, strategically positioning the UK Government to leverage the diverse advantages of quantum technologies across different policy areas – from healthcare where quantum sensors could be used to look for the signs of dementia, to energy where quantum computers could help manage the electricity grid.

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.

The competition is being delivered by Innovate UK, part of UKRI, in conjunction with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT). It is part of the UK’s National Quantum Technologies Programme which has been running since 2014 to put the UK at the forefront of quantum technologies globally.

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.”

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.

“This investment will help our researchers and innovators develop the blueprint for quantum computing hardware and software and secure the UK’s place in this developing field.”

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.”

Professor Matt Brookes OBE, co-founder of Cerca Magnetics: “There is huge potential for the Cerca Magnetics wearable brain scanner to impact both the diagnosis and management of dementia, and this is recognised by the quantum catalyst funding.”

“We already know that the OPM-MEG is effective in detecting biomarkers of epilepsy. The challenge now is building a scanner to see if it can work for dementia.

“Conventional scanners are becoming useful in this area, but they are extremely expensive and difficult to deploy. The new system is more sensitive, much more patient-friendly, and cheaper. In addition, thanks to being lightweight and mobile, OPM-MEG should allow investigations into brain activity associated with traits typical of dementia, such as altered gait. This simply isn’t possible using conventional scanners.”

Peter Stirling, CEO of Delta g: “This new funding will allow Delta g to build a portable, autonomous gravity gradient sensor, which promises unprecedented insight into what lies beneath the ground.

“Our disruptive quantum sensing technology provides a window into the underground, dramatically reducing the huge disruption and economic costs caused currently by buried hazards, particularly to large scale construction projects and city infrastructure.”

Dr Richard Murray, CEO of ORCA Computing: “We’re delighted that ORCA has been selected to sit alongside other globally leading platforms at the NQCC, the focal point for quantum computing in the UK.

“Our testbed will allow users to test and develop multiple different photonic quantum computing architectures, accelerating their identification of real applications and use cases.”

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 programme.

The 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 sets out how the UK will develop its strengths across different hardware platforms, software and components, and reinforce our capabilities throughout the supply chains.

More detail on the announcements:

  • Quantum Computing Testbeds competition

UKRI Technology Missions Fund and the UK’s National Quantum Computing Centre are investing £30 million to drive forward projects that will deliver quantum computing testbeds, based on diverse hardware architectures by March 2025. The Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition, delivered by Innovate UK, accelerates the development of scalable quantum computers by enabling detailed characterisation and benchmarking of early-stage machines.

A quantum testbed provides a controlled environment where scientists and engineers can manipulate and study quantum bits (or qubits), which are the basic unit of information in quantum computing. It enables testing and validation of new quantum algorithms, devices, or technologies as a part of the scaling-up process for practical use.

This approach seeks to bridge the gap between academic experimentation and proprietary commercial quantum computers. These testbeds will provide a crucial experimental framework, facilitating the refinement of methodologies for testing, validating, and enhancing the performance of quantum computers.

  • Quantum Catalyst Fund

The £15 million Quantum Catalyst Fund, also delivered by Innovate UK, looks to explore the benefits of using quantum technologies in the government’s work across areas like health, transport and net zero. The competition aims to accelerate the adoption of quantum solutions by the public sector and will ensure the UK government is well-placed to fully harness the benefits of using these technologies across a range of policy areas.

The first round of feasibility studies under the fund, 30 projects explored how quantum technology can provide new capabilities in public services, such as quantum-enabled brain imaging in healthcare to tackle epilepsy, concussion, and dementia, or quantum computing that can solve optimisation problems in energy grids, helping us to reach net zero. The winners of the second phase of the competition will receive funding from the SBRI fund to build physical prototypes for their sponsoring government agency/department.

The Quantum Catalyst Fund is funded by DSIT and Innovate UK. SBRI offers organisations the opportunity to work directly with the public sector to develop new technologies and processes, helping to meet efficiency targets and improving public services. It supports the research and development of solutions to solve public sector challenges.

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Matt Swayne

With a several-decades long background in journalism and communications, Matt Swayne has worked as a science communicator for an R1 university for more than 12 years, specializing in translating high tech and deep tech for the general audience. He has served as a writer, editor and analyst at The Quantum Insider since its inception. In addition to his service as a science communicator, Matt also develops courses to improve the media and communications skills of scientists and has taught courses. [email protected]

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The Future of Materials Discovery: Reducing R&D Costs significantly with GenMat’s AI and Machine Learning Tools

When: July 13, 2023 at 11:30am

What: GenMat Webinar

Jake Vikoren

Jake Vikoren

Company Speaker

Deep Prasad

Deep Prasad

Company Speaker

Araceli Venegas

Araceli Venegas

Company Speaker

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