The UK’s next 10 years of quantum strategy
Electronic Specifier recently attended the National Quantum Showcase 2023 in which it delved into the UK’s next 10 years of quantum strategy.
Quantum technology stands tall as a rapidly emerging technology, whether it be on the computational front, security, sensors, or otherwise, the applications for this vast technology are yet to even be truly realised. As detailed by Chris Jones during the talk: “Here in the UK, much work has been done in the past decade to ensure that the UK stands tall as a pioneer in the quantum field for the next ten years,” pushing for research and development, innovation, and creating hubs which can enable these feats.
At the National Quantum Showcase, Rachel Maze, Head of Quantum Technologies Policy at the Department for Science, Innovation & Technology, held a panel featuring Chris Jones, Deputy Challenge Director at Innovate UK, Dr Katharine Dunn, Joint Head of Quantum Technologies at EPSRC, Tanuj Jain, Head of Projects and Stakeholder Engagement at the Regulatory Horizons Council of DSIT, and Dr Sonali Mohapatra, Quantum Innovation Sector Lead at the National Quantum Computing Centre, to discuss the key aims of the UK’s quantum strategy and the direction it is heading over the next ten years.
The key themes for the talk were laid out almost immediately, with Maze stating that the UK’s key strategy is to maintain its existing quantum landscape and build upon it. “Quantum is a key part of the UK technology strategy,” she says, “and the UK must remain internationally competitive.
“The government is committed to investing a minimum of £2.5bn of funding into quantum research and development over the next 10 years.
“The UK needs to be the home of world-leading quantum science, as well as continuing to grow UK-based knowledge and skills,” detailed Maze.
To achieve this, the panel took turns outlining the various methods that will be undertaken, as well as noting the challenges that will present themselves in the near future.
Collaboration was a crucial topic, the UK, as much as it would love to, cannot undertake quantum alone. Whilst international competitiveness was a driving force of the strategy moving forward, bringing in external talent and enabling collaboration domestically and internationally is key to success in this regard.
Jones noted how “the UK has one of the most active quantum landscapes in the world,” showcasing the collaborative nature of the industry in the UK. For him, collaborative research and development is one of the key pillars enabling the growth of quantum business in the UK, and upholding it is key to the next decade. Maze was quick to add how collaboration is continually ”enabled through the UK’s quantum hubs,” which “actively encourage partnerships and innovations.” These hubs include the likes of the NQTP Programme, which were also in attendance, such as the Quantic Hub, QCS Hub, and the Sensors & Timing Quantum Hub. Hubs act as focal points for research and development, commercialisation, regulation, as well as partnerships and are a cornerstone of the UK quantum strategy of the decade gone and upcoming. As Maze described “The UK is constantly looking to expand international partnerships,” however, under the guise that this cutting-edge research will take place here in the UK.
Scaling and delivering quantum
The scaling and delivery of quantum also took centre stage, with Dr. Mohopatra and Jones diving into the details of how these areas will look over the next ten years. Jones described, here in the UK “we are using a variety of delivery streams to help quantum businesses grow, collaborate, and most crucially, innovate.”
These streams include the previously mentioned collaborative research and development projects, feasibility studies, technological projects, investments, the Quantum Catalyst Programme, and the Small Businesses Research Initiative. These, Jones touted, are the backbone from which the next ten years of quantum in the UK will build. “This is not going to be from a blank slate, instead it will be built upon the past ten years of successful work,” he explained.
An example of one of these areas in play was given by Jones through the detailing of the £250m quantum strategy investment which includes: £70m towards missions in quantum computing and Positioning, Navigation and Timing (PNT), £15m towards boosting government procurement of quantum catalysts, £20m towards accelerating quantum networks, £20m funding for the National Quantum Computing Centre, and >£130m across R&D, hubs, fellowships, doctoral training, and international collaboration over the next five years.
The topic of regulation was also embedded in the conversations, with the need for regulations growing alongside the sector’s emergence. “Regulation gets a bad rep, but it can be a catalyst for quantum,” said Jain. “Regulation should be, and is within quantum, pro-innovation.” To do this, Jain outlined the quantum regulatory pathway for cross-cutting and sector-specific challenges that are to be addressed in the coming decade.
- Regulate the application
- Getting the timing right
- Governance structures
- Regulatory support, training, and resources
- Testbeds and sandboxes
- Develop standards with industry
- International collaboration
- Quantum sensing, imaging, and timing
- Quantum communications
- Quantum computing
Jain made it clear, however, that these regulations are not designed to hinder the development of quantum in the UK. “It is important to not regulate cross-sector, instead just focus in individual applications when required.” Additionally, given the nature of the UK quantum landscape, especially as it moves into the next ten years, “regulations must include conversations which include the voices of both large businesses as well as those of SMEs,” demonstrating the UKs devotion to aiding R&D, innovative new companies, spinouts, and collaboration.
The National Quantum Showcase 2023 shed light on the UK's ambitious quantum strategy for the next decade. As emphasised by industry experts and policymakers, the UK's commitment to maintaining a leading position in the quantum landscape is evident through substantial investments, collaborative efforts, and strategic partnerships both domestically and internationally. The talk highlighted the importance of fostering a conducive environment for research and development, while also addressing the challenges of scaling and delivering quantum technologies. Furthermore, discussions on the crucial role of regulations underscored the need for proactive and innovation-friendly regulatory frameworks that support the growth of the quantum sector while ensuring safety and effectiveness. It is also worthy to note that in the follow up Q&A session, the hot topic was commercialisation – something that will become more prevalent in the years to come. With a comprehensive approach that prioritises collaboration, innovation, and regulatory foresight, the UK is poised to make significant strides in the quantum domain, solidifying its position as a global quantum technology powerhouse in the years to come.