Quantum Technology Could Open The Way to Economic Advantage For The UK, Academy Reports

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Insider Brief

  • The UK is well placed to apply its unique expertise and commercial knowhow in key areas of quantum technology that could boost its future economy.
  • The findings are part of a report published today by the Royal Academy of Engineering.
  • The Academy makes six recommendations on how government could support the UK’s emerging quantum sector and increase its potential for future success.

PRESS RELEASE — The UK is well placed to apply its unique expertise and commercial knowhow in key areas of quantum technology that could boost its future economy, according to a report published today by the Royal Academy of Engineering. Synthetic diamond is just one of several areas highlighted by the review as strategic priorities for future investment, along with silicon photonics, compound semiconductors and superconductors.

The independent Quantum Infrastructure Review makes six recommendations on how government could support the UK’s emerging quantum sector and increase its potential for future success.

The UK is particularly well positioned to take a leading role in compound semiconductors, which currently account for about 20% of the global chip market, with growth being driven by electrification and net zero technologies, telecommunications and self-driving vehicles. There is now a clear opportunity to build on the UK’s considerable expertise in compound semiconductors to explore novel materials for quantum applications.

With well-established expertise in universities across the country, British research in silicon photonics for quantum could be developed to our advantage with comparatively modest investments, says the review. Silicon photonics is experiencing rapid growth internationally with major investments by large companies focused on artificial intelligence and telecommunications.

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The UK has deep expertise in fabricating diamonds with the necessary molecular structure for applications in magnetic sensing and quantum computing, with good academic facilities and commercial ventures in place to support this emerging area of technology. Diamond for quantum has not yet been extensively commercialised and open-access foundries for synthetic diamond for quantum applications have only just started to emerge, so the review identifies it as a viable area for the UK to exploit in the medium term.

At a minimum, the review recommends that the UK upgrades and improves access for industry to existing infrastructure as many of the current facilities are based in universities. This requirement is particularly relevant across a range of technology development stages that underpin most quantum technologies: design; nanofabrication prototyping; packaging, advanced packaging, and heterogeneous integration.

In addition, the Academy’s review recommends:

  • Better coordination and support to industry in navigating the UK’s fast-moving quantum landscape, including infrastructure.
  • Improving the UK’s advanced manufacturing capabilities, which would have benefits beyond the quantum sector.
  • Collaboration between industry, academia, and government to set a clearer direction for quantum technologies, and thereby shore-up strategic decision-making in public and private sectors.
  • Progress on enablers such as skills provision and the standards and regulation needed for responsible, ethical, and sustainable innovation.

Dr Dame Frances Saunders DBE CB FREng, who chaired the working group that oversaw the review, says:  “The UK has been a frontrunner in quantum technology development to date, but other nations are investing heavily in their own quantum national strategies and infrastructure. We face a choice now about whether and how we want to continue to lead in the exploitation and commercialisation of quantum technologies.

“The infrastructure needed is often beyond the scale of academic facilities or reach of SMEs so government support is crucial to de-risk the technology development process and to facilitate its adoption and commercialisation, as well as to attract investment from the private sector. Without government intervention at this stage, there is a high risk of losing ground to countries making significant investments of their own in quantum.”

Sir Peter Knight FRS, Chair of the UK National Quantum Technology Programme Strategic Advisory Board, says:  “The UK has pioneered a world-leading quantum technology programme for the past 10 years and this has evolved to an ambitious future strategy to generate economic and societal value from this great science base. To realise this, we will need a coordinated plan for investment in infrastructure, in facilities, interdependencies and supply chains to allow scale-up of this emerging technology. This Royal Academy of Engineering report, drawing on a wide range of industry and research leaders, identifies key actions to strengthen the UK programme. I commend this thoughtful report which will aid our planning to deliver on our quantum strategy.”

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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