Quantum prototypes due in the next two years

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A cutting-edge project using Quantum sensors to detect buried pipes and cables that cause costly delays to construction and congestion from roadworks is among four ground-breaking prototypes to be developed in the next two years.

The four projects are being funded through the government’s modern Industrial Strategy from the £20 million Quantum Technologies Pioneer Fund with the aim of developing prototypes within two years that could be used in future sensors, consumer electronics and digital services.

In the Autumn Budget the Chancellor announced up to a further £235 million of support to develop the next generation of transformative Quantum technologies. This includes a new National Quantum Computing Centre; a Quantum Challenge in the next wave of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and a new training and skills package.

Commenting Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “There is a huge future for cutting edge science in the UK which is why we are investing in ambitious technologies, like quantum, in our modern Industrial Strategy. These projects will benefit ordinary people around the country from easing traffic congestion to offering more data security for online transactions.

The four successful projects funded through the £20 million Pioneer fund are:

Surveying underground: Lead applicant: RSK. This project is proposed by a UK consortium of companies, working with leading UK universities, who are looking to overcome the challenges of detecting objects beneath the ground. They plan to develop a new industry of quantum sensors in the UK. If these advanced performances can be demonstrated, the economic and societal benefit of this new 'quantum' industry in the UK is expected to be significant and long-lasting.

Precise timing: Lead applicant: Teledyne e2v (UK). This project will develop a pre-production prototype of a miniature atomic clock for providing precise timing to a variety of critical infrastructure services, such as reliable energy supply, safe transport links, mobile communications, data networks and electronic financial transactions.

Secure encryption – two projects funded in this area. One led by Toshiba Research Europe, the other by ArQit. There’s an increasing flow of sensitive information across networks around the globe – financial, commercial, healthcare. In order to offer their customers higher data security, network operators and internet service providers will need to provide more secure services underpinned by new encryption technologies.

A new generation of encryption products – the hardware and software needed to make this possible – using Quantum Technology, is maturing fast with prototypes and early service offerings becoming available over the next two years. The Toshiba led- project aims to develop the UK supply chain around new integrated chips that can be mass manufactured at low cost, and demonstrate the integration of ‘quantum safe’ communications across existing optical fibre networks.

The ArQit project covers another aspect: if you’re beaming quantum keys down from space, you need advanced receivers on the ground ‘to pick up the signals’ – the project aims to achieve exactly that, building those receivers.

The investment is the part of government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, which is delivered by UK Research and Innovation. The ISCF brings together world-leading research with businesses to take on the major societal and economic challenges of our time.

Roger McKinlay, Challenge Director for Quantum Technologies at UK Research and Innovation said: “The rise of quantum technologies will bring a huge impact on all our lives. In order to secure the UK lead in this area and make sure that companies based in the UK and UK jobs take a significant share of this opportunity, we must continue to work across industry, academia and government to achieve innovation.

“This is why the government’s investment of £20 million through these four successful Pioneer Challenge- funded project will put prototype quantum-enabled devices in to the hands of users.”