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The secretary of state for science, innovation and technology, Michelle Donelan, has signed a deal with the Republic of Korea to expand collaboration on science and technology including artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum computing. Among the focus areas will be what the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) describes as “a new dialogue on quantum”. This, it said, will include talent exchanges.
The UK-Korea Science Deal was unveiled at the Royal Society. South Korea's President Yoon, the Duchess of Edinburgh and Donelan attended the event, marking the deal’s signing. Donelan, along with minister of trade, industry and energy Bang Moon-kyu and minister of science and ICT Lee Jong Ho from the Republic of Korea, signed the agreement, which forms part of a new bilateral accord that also aims to deepens ties on defence, trade and investment.
DSIT said the UK and the Republic of Korea share a close relationship. Donelan said: “The Republic of Korea is a tech powerhouse, and a vital partner to the UK. We share the same values and face the same challenges - from creating future jobs and industries fit for the AI age, to bringing the power of science to bear on climate change and supporting aging populations. As part of the new accord between our two countries, this raft of agreements will future proof our relationship for decades to come - a partnership that is already bearing fruit as we work closely together on the next AI Safety Summit.”
The deal covers an agreement between the UK and the Republic of Korea to work together to harness the potential of critical technologies like AI, quantum and semiconductors to create jobs and unlock economic growth, alongside a new £4.5m fund to create joint research and innovation partnerships.
The agreement includes a memorandum of understanding between Innovate UK and the Korea Institute for Advancement of Technology, which aims to extend the collaboration between both countries’ industries and researchers in areas such as semiconductors.
The UK government said it is also in early discussions on a cooperation agreement to enhance the Republic of Korea’s involvement in the Square Kilometre Array Observatory (SKAO), the multibillion-pound international project to build the world’s largest radio telescope. The UK hosts the headquarters of the Observatory and is contributing £270m towards the project, which aims to transform our understanding of the universe and physics. DSIT said that having the Republic of Korea on board will open up opportunities to create even stronger links with the global science community.
Along with the focus on AI, following on from the Bletchley Park AI Safety Summit, the government is keen to build out a national quantum strategy.
In November, science minister George Freeman announced £14m in funding for several quantum technology projects, including £4m 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. As part of the national strategy, the government has funded 139 projects involving 141 quantum organisations through the Innovate UK Commercialising Quantum Challenge.
The Telegraph reported earlier this week that Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt would use his autumn statement to launch what the newspaper calls a "moonshot" quantum supercomputing programme.