Quantum Tech

Report: boosting UK economy with quantum innovation regulation

28th February 2024
Sheryl Miles

new report published by the Regulatory Horizons Council (RHC) has set out a pro-innovation approach to regulating quantum technologies, setting the stage for safe and effective advancement while cementing the UK's position as a global leader in the technology.

Commissioned as part of the UK's National Quantum Strategy, the report provides policymakers, regulators, and industry with crucial guidance to safely and effectively advance groundbreaking quantum technologies.

Quantum technologies already offer possible solutions to some of society’s greatest challenges and provide future capabilities that are yet to be explored, from new sensing technologies to help screen for diseases, to quantum computers which could solve problems even the most powerful classical computers currently struggle with. This potential is one of the reasons quantum has been prioritised as one of the government’s five critical technologies, as set out in the UK Science and Technology Framework.

The RHC is an independent expert committee, sponsored by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT). Its role is to identify the implications of technological innovation, and provide government with impartial, expert advice on the regulatory reform required to support its rapid and safe introduction.

Over the coming years, quantum technologies are expected to revolutionise many aspects of life in the UK and bring enormous benefits such as helping to grow our economy and create well-paid jobs across the country – one of the Prime Minister’s five priorities.

While acknowledging the early stage of development for some quantum technologies, the report emphasises the importance of proactive discussions and planning for future regulation to provide certainty and encourage long-term investment. It advocates for a pro-innovation approach that attracts and retains domestic and international expertise and fosters a competitive domestic landscape.

Writing to the RHC, Science Minister Andrew Griffith MP welcomed the report, highlighting the government's plans to leverage technological innovation for growth and to establish the UK as a leader in regulatory best practice. The Minister says that DSIT will lead the development of the government’s response to the report over the next three months.

The Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, Andrew Griffith, said: “I welcome the Regulatory Horizons Council’s report and its recommendations to take a pro-innovation approach to regulating quantum technology as its use in our economy grows. Quantum holds immense promise, with the potential to revolutionise disease screening, advance quantum computing, and ultimately transform our lives and boost the UK economy.

“In line with our ambitious National Quantum Strategy, our commitment of £2.5 billion over the next decade in quantum research and innovation is a clear signal of our resolve to stay at the forefront of this transformative technology.”

The RHC's report outlines 14 key recommendations within three categories:

  • Regulatory frameworks and governance: establishing application-specific regulatory frameworks that are adaptable and proportionate to the unique properties and development stages of quantum innovations.
  • Standards and international collaboration: fostering international collaboration and harmonising standards to facilitate global market access.
  • Innovation funding and market development: integrating regulation and responsible innovation practices into the development of quantum technologies and fostering market development through regulatory sandboxes and testbeds.

Industry representatives and stakeholders in the quantum technology sector have already expressed strong support for the RHC's findings, emphasising the need for a balanced regulatory approach that promotes innovation while ensuring safety and public interest.

techUK’s Director of Tech and Innovation, Sue Daley, said: “techUK welcomes the publication of the Regulatory Horizons Council Report which serves as a further example of transforming the recommendations of the National Quantum Strategy into action. While quantum technologies remain nascent, engaging in discussions about a pro-innovation regulatory framework for quantum in the UK is crucial.

“This proactive approach not only provides early regulatory clarity but also mitigates economic risks, ensuring that the opportunities for the UK’s quantum businesses are maximised.

“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.”

UKQuantum’s Executive Director, Jonathan Legh-Smith, said: “Quantum technologies will be transformative across many sectors critical to our economy and society including health, energy, communications, finance, and security.

“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.

“This need not come at the expense of stifling the very innovation we seek to enable. The recommendations within this report, focusing on the application of quantum rather than the technologies themselves, and promoting the principles of responsible innovation, clearly position the UK as the leader in pro-innovation regulation for quantum. This approach underscores the importance of collaboration between stakeholders, including the importance of the industry voice to advance quantum technologies, ensuring the UK remains a global leader in this groundbreaking field.”

The National Quantum Strategy, published in March 2023, commits £2.5 billion to developing quantum technologies in the UK over the ten years from 2024 – more than doubling current public investment, which will aim to generate an additional £1 billion of private investment into the programme.

The strategy sets out a bold and ambitious approach to supporting quantum technologies in the UK across the broad spectrum of quantum computing, sensing, timing, imaging, and communications. It sets out how the UK will develop its strengths across different hardware platforms, software, and components, and reinforce our capabilities throughout the supply chains.

This report marks the completion of one of the key actions of the strategy which outlines the UK’s ambition to create a national and international regulatory framework that supports innovation and the ethical use of quantum technologies and protects UK capabilities and national security.

The RHC is now undertaking further work to identify priorities in regulating emerging technologies. This report on quantum technologies marks a significant step in creating a regulatory environment that supports the growth and innovation of the UK quantum industry.

Requests for more examination (relating to technological innovation) in areas you would like the RHC to investigate further, can be made by completing this form.

Further support from the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme Hub Directors:

Director for the Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing, Simon Bennet, said: “I am encouraged by the RHC’s insightful report on quantum technology regulation. The report adeptly navigates the complexities of quantum innovation, offering a balanced and forward-looking regulatory framework.

“These recommendations, if implemented, will not only bolster the UK’s leadership in quantum technology but also ensure that development considers responsible innovation.

“This report is a positive step towards a regulatory environment that is as dynamic and innovative as the quantum technologies it seeks to govern.”

Director of the Quantum Computing and Simulation Hub, Dominic O’Brien, said: “Effective regulation, as part of the wider National Strategy, has the potential to accelerate the UK’s future quantum economy. This report sets out a framework for developing regulation, and the QCS Hub was pleased to be able to help with its preparation.

“We look forward to continuing to support regulators, government, and stakeholders across the National Programme with the development of this important area.”

Director of the Quantum Communications Hub, Timothy Spiller, said: “Debate on the role of regulation is clearly important when new technologies emerge, particularly those that impact security, or privacy, or possess dual-use capabilities.

“For quantum technologies, it is crucial that these regulatory discussions complement and support the vibrant and expanding commercialisation activities. Through its recommendations, this RHC review seeks to stimulate such supportive debate.”

Director of Quantum Enhanced Imaging Hub (QuantIC), David Cumming, said: “I welcome the report on regulation for the future of quantum technology. It will help to accelerate the progress of new technology into the market-place and reduce barriers to innovation.”

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