Getty Images

Government urged to take a pro-innovation approach to quantum regulation

Responsible innovation, learning from AI and the use of foresight techniques should inform policymaking

The Regulatory Horizons Council (RHC) has published a report that sets out a pro-innovation approach to regulating quantum technologies.

The RHC was asked by the UK’s National Quantum Strategy to research what regulatory and governance approaches and measures would be needed now, and in the near future, to facilitate the rapid and safe introduction of innovative quantum technology applications.

The report it produced, Regulating quantum technology applications, recommends developing application-specific regulatory frameworks that are adaptable and proportionate to the unique properties and development stages of quantum innovations along with establishing a Quantum Regulatory Forum.

In the report, the RHC urged policymakers to apply foresight techniques such as horizon scanning, road mapping, scenario planning and monitoring as part of their decision-making on when and how to regulate innovative technology products and processes. These techniques can be used to anticipate future quantum-related challenges and identify potential pitfalls, barriers, and regulatory intersections.

The report’s authors also called on policymakers to integrate regulation and responsible innovation practices into the development of quantum technologies and work on developing standards and international harmonisation in quantum technology.

In the report, the RHC said it recognises that while there is significant potential for quantum technologies, premature legally based regulations can hinder their development. “Considering early regulatory initiatives now could help unblock future hurdles and allow the UK to achieve responsible and more rapid innovation,” the report’s authors wrote.

The RHC has proposed four core principles for the development of quantum-related regulation to stand alongside the more general social responsibility principles that would apply to all companies, government and regulators: proportionality, adaptability, responsibility and balance.

Read more about quantum computing

The report’s authors noted that there are plenty of similarities between a regulatory framework for quantum technologies and the work that has been done so far with regulating artificial intelligence (AI).

UK Quantum’s executive director, Jonathan Legh-Smith, said: “As we have learnt from AI, it is essential that we engage early in developing the regulatory frameworks that will reassure the public and businesses that the inevitable innovation afforded by quantum technologies will have the positive change that we anticipate and intend.”

The RHC also pointed to existing responsible innovation policy and guidelines. These include the EU initiative on Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), the International Standards Organisation (ISO) Social Responsibility Standard, ISO 26000, and the British Standards Institution’s (BSI) Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 440.

Sue Daley, TechUK’s director of tech and innovation, said: “As quantum moves towards commercialisation, it is essential to support the research and development of all quantum technologies and support a plurality of architectures or solutions. TechUK eagerly anticipates collaborating with DSIT as they navigate and respond to the insights presented in this report over the coming months.”

In a ministerial letter to Christopher Hodges, chair of RHC, which accompanied the publication of the report, Andrew Griffith, minister for Science, Research and Innovation, said: “We must be unapologetically ambitious in our regulatory approach. Though you conclude that further legislative intervention is not yet merited for quantum, we understand that we cannot remain static, especially given the rapid pace at which technology and its applications evolve.

“Therefore, your advice on actions that the Government and others need to implement, both now and in the long term, is helpful to ensure we stay proactive and responsive to these developments.”

Read more on IT legislation and regulation

Data Center
Data Management