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UK quantum technology projects get a £70m boost

Government is funding 38 projects, one-third of which are focused on quantum computing

The government has announced it is injecting £70m of funding to support quantum technology, in a bid to make the UK a quantum leader.

As part of the government’s commitment to increase research and development investment, science minister Amanda Solloway unveiled financial support for 38 new quantum technology projects.

The £70m government investment is part of its Quantum Technologies Challenge, led by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The projects involve more than 80 companies and nearly 30 universities and research organisations across the UK, including the University of Glasgow, University College London and the National Physical Laboratory.

Overall, the government said it has put aside £1bn to invest in the commercialisation of quantum innovations and secure the UK’s status as a world leader in quantum science and technologies.

Speaking at the Quantum Tech Digital Congress, Solloway said: “The UK is home to some of the world’s most advanced quantum technology companies tackling some of the most pressing challenges – from speeding up the diagnosis of cancerous tumours to detecting harmful gas leaks. 

“I am delighted the government is able to provide this thriving sector with the backing it deserves. The projects I have announced today will help to maintain the UK’s status as a world leader in quantum technology.”

Roger McKinlay, challenge director at UKRI, said: “About one-third of these projects concern quantum computing, demonstrating that the UK is becoming the go-to place for this game-changing technology, with a growing community of thriving spin-outs, led by world-class teams. Quantum computers will be exponentially faster than classical computers at certain kinds of complex problems, solving in seconds what would take the best classical computers thousands of years.”

The 38 projects have been awarded grants from the Quantum Technologies Challenge in 2020.

One of the projects to receive funding is a quantum operating system that is being developed by Riverlane, one of the UK’s first quantum software companies, in partnership with chip designer ARM. The goal of the project is to develop an operating system that will run across all major quantum computing hardware, to help businesses to unlock commercial opportunities.

Phasecraft, one of the UK’s emerging quantum software startups, will use quantum technology to overcome limitations in battery material designs and help predict their performance. This could break new ground in battery development across sectors including large-scale energy storage and high-performance electric vehicles, and lead to the development of more powerful battery devices.

Another project, led by medical imaging company Adaptix in collaboration with the University of Manchester, will use enhanced imaging to allow surgeons to effectively differentiate between healthy tissues and tumours in cancer surgery. 

Read more about quantum computing

  • Quantum computing takes a radically different approach to programming. IBM’s education head discusses how to get started.
  • Google claims it has developed an algorithm for a quantum computer that would take a traditional “classical” computer 10,000 years to run.

QLM, a startup from Bristol, in collaboration with BP and the National Grid, will use the funds to develop quantum-enabled gas sensors that detect industrial leaks, helping to prevent natural gas being lost to the atmosphere and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

As Computer Weekly has previously reported, quantum computing promises to revolutionise programming by providing a way to run a category of algorithms in which complexity grows exponentially. Earlier this month, NatWest announced that it was making a substantial investment in Canadian quantum software company 1QBit. The bank hopes it will be able to draw on quantum computing to run financial applications such as portfolio optimisation, complex simulation, and anomaly and fraud detection. 

Kevin Hanley, director of innovation at NatWest Group, said: “Our relationship with 1QBit has given us great access to this exciting technology and the whole quantum industry.  The emergence of cloud-based quantum computing from Microsoft and Amazon, in particular, underlines the importance of having a great software partner and being able to try multiple hardware providers through a cloud service.

“Working with 1QBit will continue to help us better understand this technology and deploy it to the benefit of our customers and the bank. This investment cements our position as 1QBit’s financial services partner in the UK and our commitment to deploy this exciting technology.”

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