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UK science minister announces quantum tech funding and collaboration plans

Science minister George Freeman announces £14m in funding for quantum technology projects as government signs collaboration agreements with Australia and the Netherlands

The government has announced £14m in funding for several quantum technology projects to drive forward its ambition of becoming a quantum-enabled economy by 2033, as set out in the National Quantum Strategy.

The funding, of which £10m has been allocated to six UK-based projects, is part of the £2.5bn the government is investing in developing quantum technologies over the next 10 years.

The six projects all aim to accelerate the development of components and systems for quantum network technologies, and include a project to deliver modular systems for connecting quantum processors into networks at scale, as well as Toshiba Europe’s project to develop high-bandwidth quantum-secure communications between satellite and ground networks.

Speaking at the UK National Quantum Technologies Showcase, science minister George Freeman announced a further £4m funding from Innovate UK for collaborative research and development (R&D) through UK-Canada partnerships, covering 11 projects to develop real-world quantum technologies for commercial use.

“We have identified quantum as one of the five transformational technologies in which the UK is a global leader, which is why we have set out a £2.5bn, 10-year industrial strategy to support the quantum sector here in the UK,” said Freeman.

“Quantum is set to transform computing, imaging and sensing, cyber security and position, navigation and timing with major industrial applications from drug discovery to defence, fintech, and much more.”

The government has also signed collaboration agreements with Australia and the Netherlands, which will see the countries work together on quantum R&D, commercialisation, investment and skills.

Freeman also said the National Quantum Computing Centre’s (NQCC) £30m competition will deliver a range of testbeds throughout the country, based on different hardware architectures, which will accelerate the development of scalable quantum computers.

The NQCC is collaborating with tech giant IBM, providing UK-based quantum computer users with priority access to IBM’s machines.

“Our partnership between the National Quantum Computing Centre and IBM will provide cloud quantum computing access for companies, agencies, national labs and other organisations to help boost UK quantum computing infrastructure,” said Freeman.

“Our £30m quantum testbed programme will build the world’s first quantum computing testbed to assess and benchmark machines. Our funding for collaborative programmes with the Netherlands and Canada is a sign of our commitment to develop global quantum standards and networks.”

The government is also launching a quantum standards network pilot, aiming to ensure the country is at the forefront of establishing global standards. The goal is for the pilot network to become a centre that coordinates UK engagement with global standards.

The pilot network will be run by the National Physical Laboratory, in collaboration with the NQCC, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) and the British Standards Institution.  

The quantum technology strategy, which was launched in March 2023, aims to ensure the UK is home to world-leading quantum science and engineering. It also aims to drive the adoption of quantum technologies in business and create a national and international regulatory framework.

Alongside its £2.5bn investment, the government hopes the strategy will generate an additional £1bn of private investment into the programme.

One of the key objectives is that, by 2033, all businesses in key sectors of the UK will be aware of the potential of quantum technologies, and 75% of relevant businesses will have taken steps to prepare for the arrival of quantum computing.

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