The funds aim to accelerate real-life applications of quantum computing in the public and private sectors.
The UK government has disclosed investing a total of £45 million in the UK’s quantum sector – as part of its commitment to transforming into a quantum-enabled economy by 2033
Quantum technologies are recognised as one of the government’s five critical technologies as set out in the UK Science and Technology Framework.
The National Quantum Strategy, published in March 2023, commits £2.5 billion to developing quantum technologies in the UK over the ten years from 2024 – more than doubling current public investment, which will aim to generate an additional £1 billion of private investment into the program.
The announcement represents initiatives enabling the use of quantum technologies in real-life applications, both in the private and public sectors.
The funding is divided into two dedicated components:
Quantum Computing Testbeds competition
UKRI Technology Missions Fund and the UK’s National Quantum Computing Centre are investing £30 million to drive forward projects that will deliver quantum computing testbeds, based on diverse hardware architectures by March 2025.
The Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition, delivered by Innovate UK, accelerates the development of scalable quantum computers by enabling detailed characterisation and benchmarking of early-stage machines.
A quantum testbed provides a controlled environment where scientists and engineers can manipulate and study quantum bits (or qubits), which are the basic unit of information in quantum computing. It enables testing and validation of new quantum algorithms, devices, or technologies as a part of the scaling-up process for practical use.
This approach bridges the gap between academic experimentation and proprietary commercial quantum computers. These testbeds will provide a crucial experimental framework, facilitating the refinement of methodologies for testing, validating, and enhancing the performance of quantum computers.
One of the recipients of the funding is ORCA Computing, which is developing a photonic quantum computing testbed for machine learning using its novel hybrid quantum/classical neural network architectures and photonic quantum processors. The company will complete delivery and installation of the system at the NQCC’s facilities on Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire by March 2025.
Quantum Catalyst Fund
The £15 million Quantum Catalyst Fund, also delivered by Innovate UK, aims to accelerate the adoption of quantum solutions by the public sector. It will ensure the UK government is well-placed to fully harness the benefits of using these technologies across a range of policy areas.
In the first round of feasibility studies under the fund, 30 projects explored how quantum technology can provide new capabilities in public services, such as quantum-enabled brain imaging in healthcare to tackle epilepsy, concussion, and dementia, or quantum computing that can solve optimisation problems in energy grids, helping us to reach net zero.
The projects receiving funding include the development of a high-tech brain scanner using quantum technology, aiming to improve the diagnosis of disorders such as epilepsy and dementia, and a smart navigation system for trains, using quantum sensors to save costs and enhance safety in tunnels.
The winners of the second phase of the competition will receive funding from the SBRI fund to build physical prototypes for their sponsoring government agency/department.
According to Science Minister, Andrew Griffith MP:
“As we steer towards an economy benefiting from quantum, this further £45 million in funding underscores our commitment to support bright UK innovators who are pushing boundaries and seizing the potential of this technology to transform our public services.
The UK is already one global leader in quantum. To maintain that position, this government will continue to invest in this transformational technology propelling the UK into a new era of technological prowess and economic growth.”