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UK steps up quantum investments

UK steps up quantum investments

Technology News |
By Nick Flaherty


Alongside the CryoConsortium and QEC project announced last week, the UK is also backing other new quantum projects with £40m. These include gas leak detection for the hydrogen industry, quantum clocks for GNSS satellite timing, machine learning to control different types of qubits and cryogenically cooled CMOS devices.

The UK’s National Quantum Technologies Programme (NQTP) started in 2014 and continues to act as a strategic funder and catalyst for the growing UK quantum industry.

“Quantum is no longer a technology of the future but a technology of today. These projects illustrate how quantum is now making an impact in many areas and will soon influence almost every facet of our lives, from computing and data security, to infrastructure and utilities such as water and energy,” said Roger McKinlay, Director of UK Research and Innovation’s £170m Commercialising Quantum Technologies Challenge. “This funding is already encouraging the private investment needed for the UK to turn its scientific lead in to an industrial one, creating jobs, exports and economic benefits.

This follows the joint statement of intent to boost collaboration on quantum technologies between the UK and US.

The HYDRI consortium’s HYDrogen sensoR for Industry project has received £2.5 million to develop quantum technology to detect gas leaks. 

The Aeon-Rb project, led by HCD Research, has received £2.5 million to develop quantum clocks for for national infrastructure. Much of this infrastructure relies on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) for a stable clock signal, but these signals are easily disrupted and prolonged GNSS unavailability can lead to vast disruption to critical UK services and economy, with the cost of a five-day outage estimated at £5.2bn. Many atomic clocks on the market now are too bulky or too expensive and are based on decades-old technology. This project will deliver a new generation of atomic clocks that will address these issues.

The calcium ion frequency standard (CIFS) project, led by TMD Technologies,  has received £2.1 million to develop a highly accurate trapped ion quantum clock that is much smaller, lighter, more portable and more rugged than current designs. This will make it a much more useable product for many systems and should open up a market for advanced timing devices with a wide range of applications.

The £4.3m Altnaharra project, led by Quantum Motion Technologies, aims to a cryogenic chip for integrated qubit control and readout, manufactured in a standard CMOS foundry.

The autonomous quantum technologies (AutoQT) project, led by Riverlane, has received £5.3m to solve the problem of controlling hundreds or even thousands of qubits using machine learning. The project will develop different types of qubits and test an intelligent qubit control system. This will involve the use of an artificial intelligence system designed to monitor and tweak the qubits.

ORCA Computing Ltd will research how quantum computing can integrate with the data centres that currently underpin and drive the digital economy in a £9m project. Satellite developer Arqit is also leading a £3m project to support the development of quantum-safe encryption technologies for satellite-based communication networks, helping to ensure robust data security in the long term.

£2.7m is going to the Sonardyne International-led Underwater single photon imaging system project. It will  use photon detection to create high-resolution 3D maps of the sea floor, supporting installation and operation of offshore wind energy, environmental monitoring and defence applications.

£3.1m is going to the UpScale project to develop scalable quantum information enabled by integrated optics. It will bring together five commercial partners, led by Fraunhofer UK Research, to develop scalable quantum computing technologies that could revolutionise many industries with applications ranging from drug discovery to supply chain management.

The challenge has already awarded £103 million in grants over the last three years. Businesses supported by the programme have raised over £220 million investment since the programme began.

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