Technology

UK quantum initiatives get funding boost

The government has announced £30m of investment to develop prototype quantum computing as part of a £45m package to support the sector.

The investment has been earmarked to develop what the government describes as “world-leading prototype quantum computers”, which it said would offer scientists and engineers a controlled environment for experimentation.

The UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Technology Missions Fund and the UK’s National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC) have invested £30m through a competition to develop and deliver quantum computing hardware prototypes, and a testbed is being developed to speed up the development of scalable quantum computers.

The testbed offers a controlled environment where scientists and engineers can manipulate and study quantum bits (or qubits). This will enable the testing and validation of new quantum algorithms, devices or technologies as part of the scaling-up process for practical use.

Kedar Pandya, executive director of 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. 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.”

Another £15m from the Quantum Catalyst Fund is targeting applications for quantum in government. The government said the funding would be used to fast-track the integration of quantum technology in the public sector to support areas such as 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.

Ian West, head of technology at KPMG UK, said: “Organisations have typically taken a cautious approach to quantum technology, but today’s investment in specific industries and targeted projects will help bring clarity to give businesses more confidence in the technology to solve problems within their own four walls. That said, care should be taken with any experimentation with quantum due to the potential cyber risks.”

Through phase 1 of a competition delivered by Innovate UK, part of UKRI, in conjunction with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), 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 the use of quantum technology in government.

The winners of the second phase of the competition will receive funding from the Small Business Research Initiative from Innovate UK to build physical prototypes for their sponsoring government agency or department.

Science minister Andrew Griffith said: “As we steer towards an economy benefiting from quantum, this further £45m 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.”

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