UK invests £20 million in quantum prototype development

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As part of the ongoing effort to establish the UK as a leader in quantum technologies, the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), have announced a £20 million pioneer fund to aid the development of several prototype quantum devices for use in future sensors, consumer electronics and digital services.

The investment is the part of the UK’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, a multi-million-pound investment in R&D intended to bring together acedemia and industry to take on the major societal and economic challenges of the modern world.

The pioneer fund and resulting prototypes will be used to establish whether more significant future funding could help UK businesses establish a global advantage in quantum technologies.

‘In order to secure the UK lead in this area and make sure that UK companies take a significant share of this large future sector, we must act now with a focus more than ever on working across the spectrum of industry, academia and across government to achieve innovation,’ said interim Challenge director Sir Peter Knight, emeritus professor of physics and quantum optics at Imperial College London. ‘The Pioneer Challenge will develop our industrial base, integrated with UK research.’

The next revolution of quantum technology could enable devices such as navigational systems capable of operating without GPS, cameras that can see around corners and truly secure methods of exchanging data, according to Innovate UK and the EPSRC.

In Autumn 2013 the UK government announced an investment of £270 million over five years into a National Quantum Technologies Programme to accelerate the translation of quantum technologies into the marketplace, boost British business and impact everyday life. The EPSRC has since used £120 million of this to fund a national network of four quantum technology hubs that explore the properties of quantum mechanics and how they can be harnessed for use in technology.

Resulting innovations from such hubs include a single pixel camera capable of seeing through smoke, visualising gas leaks and capturing high precision 3D images, developed by the UK Quantum Technology Hub in Quantum Enhanced Imaging (QuantiC) in collaboration with M Squared Lasers. The technology combines low-cost micro-mirror arrays and image reconstruction algorithms to capture video-rate images of a scene faster than any existing scanning system.

Additionally, the UK National Quantum Technology Hub in Sensors and Metrology, in collaboration with Teledyne e2v, is developing quantum gravity sensors to locate utilities buried underground without having to excavate. The sensors have the potential to speed up the location process one hundred-fold and lead to annual savings to the UK economy of several hundreds of millions of pounds.

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