UK government commits £2.5bn to boost quantum

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To tie in with the Spring 2023 statement, the prime minister and technology secretary unveiled £2.5bn in funding as part of a 10-year strategy to make the UK a leader in quantum computing.

The government funding will focus on ensuring the UK is home to world-leading quantum science and engineering. It also aims to drive the adoption of quantum technologies in business and create a national and international regulatory framework.

Introducing the UK’s quantum strategy, Michelle Donelan, secretary of state for science, innovation and technology, said: “We firmly believe that Britain should lead the world in this physical science, and deliver opportunities and jobs in hardware, engineering and advanced manufacturing, as well as in software and applications across the economy.”

Along with government funding, the quantum strategy aims to generate an additional £1bn of private investment into the programme. One of the key objectives is that, by 2033, all businesses in key relevant sectors of the UK will be aware of the potential of quantum technologies, and 75% of relevant businesses will have taken steps to prepare for the arrival of quantum computing.

To support the development of expertise, £25m of funding is being used to establish a Quantum Skills Taskforce, to develop an industry placement scheme and a quantum apprenticeship programme.

The taskforce will be used to attract, retain and invest in skilled quantum individuals who want to come to the UK. To support this, the government plans to update the routes that talented individuals in the field of quantum can use to come to the UK and continue their careers, via the UK Innovation Strategy. These routes include the High Potential Individual Route for internationally mobile researchers who demonstrate high potential to come to the UK; a scale-up route and an innovator route, which enable innovators and entrepreneurs to start and run businesses in the UK.

The £2.5bn of funding follows on from the 10-year National Quantum Technologies Programme (NQTP), which is due to end in 2024. James Palles-Dimmock, CEO of Quantum Motion, said: “The next phase, with an increased budget of £2.5bn, will put us at the forefront globally for governmental investment into quantum technologies, after some significant support from the US, Germany and China to their respective national programmes. It is a big signal that the UK wants to build on the ‘unfair advantage’ that we have thanks to the work of the NQTP and our world-leading universities and that we have a desire to see quantum technologies through to commercialisation.”

Discussing the significance of the quantum strategy to businesses, Harvey Lewis, partner of client technology and innovation at EY, said: “The release of the government’s Quantum Strategy today is a signal that the ambition to prepare for and adopt quantum technologies among UK businesses must now become a reality. Quantum technology’s reach is far broader than those who actively use it, so from a competitive and cyber security perspective it is vital that investment in quantum-ready technologies takes place now.”

Steve Brierley, CEO and founder of Riverlane, who is a member of the UK government’s Quantum Computing Expert Group, said: “While investment in industry applications/algorithms is worth continuing, it will be for nothing if we don’t have high-quality, scalable chips and quantum hardware. If we develop the world’s central chip layer in parallel with developing the quantum hardware layer, this provides the UK with a smart, future-proofed quantum strategy.”

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, Ilana Wisby, chief executive of OxfordQuantumCircuits, said: “I truly believe the UK can be a world leader. We’ve got talent. We’ve got skills. We really are world-leading, and that’s also because there’s been so much investment in quantum already from academia. We now want to make sure we can leverage that into a competitive advantage.

She described the aim to attract quantum talent as “short-sighted”. “What we need to do is make sure the skills are there for the next 5-10 years, and we can train talent from existing industries such as telecoms and the finance sector in quantum, and be able to upskill these people rather than everybody needing to have a quantum PhD,” said Wisby.

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