Anke Lohmann, head of photonics at the UK’s Knowledge Transfer Network, comments on the proposed £50 million funding for emerging technologies, including photonics, recently announced by the UK’s Technology Strategy Board, Innovate UK. Emerging imaging technologies and quantum technologies are both earmarked to receive funding, she says
I am extremely pleased about the £50 million investment into emerging technologies. It is good to see that the UK government is recognising the importance of supporting the translation from research outcomes into practical industry applications. It is very well known that UK excels in research but that it lacks in its translation into industrial applications. Quite often, the technology is then picked up by companies abroad or left on the shelf. Although, £50 million will not solve the issue, it is a step in the right direction.
The KTN usually plays a role in facilitating input into the funding needs by engaging with its various communities to highlight areas of greatest potential. This input is part of a mix of parameters used by Innovate UK and the UK government to decide where funding should go.
The photonics team at the KTN has also been involved in collecting evidence for the emerging technologies and is very pleased that one of the areas, emerging imaging technologies, will be funded, responding the UK strength in this area and acknowledging the developments that are currently taking place. The emerging imaging programme in itself has not been defined and hyperspectral imaging may or may not be part of a funding programme, as we have been informed by Innovate UK. Details for which areas will receive funding need to be developed further.
However, the most important part for photonics in this emerging technologies programme is the support for quantum technologies. Innovate UK will invest the significant amount of £32 million over five years. This is part of a wider UK quantum technologies programme worth £270 million aimed at developing technologies that could become future products. Most of the funding will be given to universities by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). However, this is a unique programme in the UK since it closely coordinates between research funded for academic work as well commercial development.
Photonics plays a key role in enabling quantum technology application, either utilising quantum behaviour of photons, for example entangled photons for secure communication, or as means of creating or sensing quantum states such as in quantum clocks or quantum gravitational sensors. Application areas that receive funding under this programme are: sensing, imaging, secure communication, simulation and computation.
These quantum systems require many different photonic components, such as: highly stable lasers, optical converters and optical frequency combs, polarisation maintaining fibre and fibre optic systems, single photon detectors and sources, integrated photonics for compact beam delivery, optical quantum routers, etc. One can assume that the investment in quantum technologies made in the UK will drive UK photonics technology further and will enable other applications beyond quantum technology. And if you would like to know more about the quantum technologies programme please contact me, Anke Lohmann at the KTN.