Photonics firms to steer £10 million quantum project

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M Squared’s lasers have been used in cold matter-based quantum computing projects

A £10 million, three-year programme designed to address technology barriers to commercial quantum computing has been launched in the UK. 

The Discovery project, the largest industry-led quantum computing project in Britain to date, is being led by M Squared, which already develops commercial quantum products. 

Other industry partners, including Oxford Ionics, ORCA Computing, Kelvin Nanotechnology and TMD Technologies, will work closely with the Universities of Glasgow, Strathclyde and Oxford, along with the National Physical Laboratory (NPL).

At present, there are several promising approaches to commercially viable quantum computing – this project will specifically address three methods enabled by photonics that offer the highest fidelities demonstrated to date: neutral atom, ion trap and optical qubits.

These approaches represent the state-of-the-art in demonstrated hardware; however, barriers to commercial deployment remain with the challenge of increasing both qubit fidelity and qubit scalability. The programme will demonstrate a shift from fundamental, academic activity to scalable, commercial implementations.

Another core objective of Discovery is to develop the wider UK quantum-computing sector, and therefore the project will also support in establishing commercial hardware supply and roadmaps for industrial deployment of these technologies. The selected partners have extensive experience in the sector and can already demonstrate commercial deployment of relevant technologies across the global market for quantum information systems. 

Professor Erling Riis, of Strathclyde University, said: 'The Discovery project aligns with one of the University’s strategic aims with its Quantum Technology programme, that of overcoming the barriers to commercialisation. In particular, we will be supporting the development of test beds for components and systems for cold atom-based quantum computers.'

Dr Graeme Malcolm OBE, CEO and founder of M Squared, added that the project 'will help the UK establish itself at the forefront of commercially viable photonics-enabled quantum-computing approaches,' he said.

'It will enable industry to capitalise on the government's early investment into quantum technology and build on our strong academic heritage in photonics and quantum information. The coming era of quantum technology will play a major, transformative role in both the economy and society alike. It is therefore critical that the UK leverages its expertise in science, research and advanced industry to come together and make progress in commercial applications,' Malcolm said. 

Quantum funding

This three-year project is now underway as the result of a successful bid into Innovate UK's Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund call – 'Commercialising Quantum Technology: Technology Projects Round 1'. 

There’s a huge amount of investment in quantum technologies, the most high profile of which is arguably quantum computing – but there are also advances being made in quantum communications and quantum sensing. 

The European Commission's quantum flagship programme launched in 2018, with the commision promising to contribute £1 billion of investment over 10 years. The UK's National Quantum Technologies Programme, launched in 2014, has already reached the £1 billion investment milestone through joint government and industry funding. 

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