Background

The UK has a very long and strong tradition in fundamental science but up until relatively recently, also a reputation for failing to fully exploit the business opportunities resulting from its research leading position. Over the last couple of decades, successive UK Governments have listened and acted to facilitate domestic growth and exploitation of emerging technologies. These initiatives have covered many technology and business sectors, with new quantum technologies being one of the showcase examples.

The UK National Quantum Technologies Programme

The UK National Quantum Technologies Programme (UKNQTP) is a UK government initiative designed to support translation of quantum science into commercial technological applications. The aim is to turn world-leading science into new technologies and services, creating catalysts for new markets, thus boosting the UK economy and resulting in demonstrable effects across all spheres of everyday life. Unlike previous investments, the focus of this particular programme is on technology development and commercialisation, rather than generation of new science.

Announced in 2013, the programme was launched as an original investment of £270m over five years (2014-2019), comprising a wide-ranging portfolio of schemes. By far the most substantial investment (of £120m) and the centrepiece of the programme has been the creation of a national network of four quantum technology hubs aimed at instigating and overseeing the transition from science onto technology across four main areas: sensors and metrology (UK National Quantum Technology Hub in Sensors and Metrology, led by the University of Birmingham); quantum enhanced imaging (QuantIC – Quantum Imaging Centre, led by the University of Glasgow); quantum computing (NQIT – Networked Quantum Information Technologies, led by the University of Oxford); and secure quantum communications (UK Quantum Technology Hub for Quantum Communications, led by the University of York).

Towards the end of phase 1, and following a Science & Technology Committee review, a renewed investment of £235m was announced for a second phase of the national programme, with further funding provided by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund or ISCF. Our Quantum Communications Hub has been awarded £24m for a further five years (2019-2024).

The UKNQTP is administered by a partnership of national stakeholders: the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC); the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS); the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl); the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)/National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC); Innovate UK; the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN); and the National Physical Laboratory (NPL). More information about the UKNQTP can be found in the programme website: http://uknqt.epsrc.ac.uk/

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