Quantum Technology Hubs
The NQTP approach to commercialising quantum technologies is based around four hubs, each with a university at the centre and representing broad areas of focus into which the national programme is divided.
The hubs were established in 2014 with a £214 million investment from government: Communications (University of York), Sensors and Timing (University of Birmingham), Enhanced Imaging (University of Glasgow), Computing (University of Oxford).
The hubs act as the engine for UK quantum ambitions, weaving the science of quantum technologies with ideas for their commercialisation and delivering a route to market. Each hub brings together experts from universities, national laboratories, business development and industry partners to steer a proposed development. The result of this organised collaboration to clear commercial goals is the key underpinning to the UK quantum community and the emerging industrial sector.
Please contact the appropriate hub, details below, if you want to collaborate or partner.
The QCS hub’s mission is to accelerate progress within quantum computing to ensure the UK becomes and remains a leader in the emerging global quantum information economy.
Its research spans across the full stack of hardware and software, from core technologies to potential applications for both near-term and long-term approaches.
Its ecosystem places it at the cutting edge of building the world’s leading quantum computer demonstrator, which will have the potential to provide answers to a vast array of real-world questions – like how to accelerate the development of new drugs and materials, and how to ensure secure communication between many parties.
Current areas of activities
Applications, algorithms, architectures, quantum-classical interface, quantum hardware
Rigetti UK, part of leading California-based quantum computer developer Rigetti Computing, chose to build its first overseas quantum computer in the UK as part of an Innovate UK project. The consortium includes leading high technology research and manufacturing company Oxford Instruments, software start-up Phasecraft, the University of Edinburgh, and Standard Chartered Bank.
Chad Rigetti, CEO and founder, said: “By providing access to quantum hardware, the collaboration aims to unlock new capabilities within the thriving UK ecosystem of quantum information science researchers, start-ups and enterprises who have already begun to explore the potential impact of quantum computing.”
The Quantum Communications Hub aims to deliver future-proof, practical, secure communications with commercialisation potential, by developing existing prototype quantum secure technologies beyond their current limitations; to thus contribute to the establishment of quantum communications technology industries in the UK; and to feed their future expansion, competitiveness, diversification and sustainability.
The hub’s focus is primarily on technology applications reliant on quantum key distribution or QKD – a mature quantum technology which enables ultra-secure distribution of encryption keys, and one which is considered especially promising for early commercialisation.
Current areas of activities
Communications, quantum security, networks, quantum key distribution (QKD), space and satellite communications, quantum internet, chip-based technologies, quantum-safe communications, post-quantum cryptography, standards, next-generation technologies
KETS Quantum Security Ltd is an award-winning start-up with a mission to enable future-proofed, ultra-secure communications for devices and networks through the commercialisation of integrated photonic technologies. KETS is a direct spinout of the Quantum Communications Hub, created by investigators and researchers involved in the work of the hub during the first phase of the national programme.
The company is currently focused on delivering first products, development kits, that will enable them to deliver key first trials with a number of blue chip organisations they’re currently engaged with across a range of sectors including telecommunications, governments, defence and finance.
Chris Erven, KETS’ CEO, said: “The Quantum Communications Hub was fabulously supportive of us, first as academics with our world first chip-to-chip QKD experiments, and then even more so when we created KETS to commercialise this technology and get it out into the real world protecting our private information.”
“We continue to be proud industrial partners of the Quantum Communications Hub which enables us to access the UK national quantum network, keep abreast and contribute to the latest cutting-edge quantum communications research, and grow our team from the wonderful talent the hub is producing. With the support of the hub, the UK’s national quantum programme, and the wider quantum community, we’re realising our dream of providing a quantum-safe future.”
The UK Quantum Technology Sensors and Timing Hub aims to develop a range of quantum sensor and measurement technologies that are ripe for commercialisation by UK businesses, and, alongside this, it is also looking to train people working within the UK quantum technology community.
Quantum sensors have the potential to be cheaper, lighter, smaller, more sensitive and more energy-efficient than existing, classical sensors. Advances in this area have applications across the board, from healthcare to navigation, to archaeology and everything in between.
Current areas of activities
Healthcare, energy, transport, civil engineering, manufacturing, defence, gravity sensors for surveying, quantum clocks for global navigation satellite systems
A wearable brain imaging system developed by researchers at the University of Nottingham has recently been installed at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto for ground-breaking research into autism.
Cerca Magnetics, a Nottingham-based spin-out company created to develop and distribute the state-of-the-art scanner, has successfully completed this first commercial installation of the new system.
The scanner, which employs quantum enabled sensors to measure magnetic fields above the scalp in a process termed magnetoencephalography (MEG), is being used in Toronto to scan children who have been identified as having a higher likelihood of developing autism due to siblings having the neurodevelopmental disorder.
Dr Elena Boto, University of Nottingham scientist and chief technology officer for Cerca, said: “Five years ago, we started with a few equations on the back of an envelope and a few lines of computer code to simulate a system. To have seen this mature into commercialisable imaging system, which can outperform anything available currently, has been remarkable. There are many advantages to our system, but for me the biggest is the ability to scan babies and children.”
QuantIC’s vision is to pioneer a family of multidimensional cameras operating across a range of wavelengths, time-scales, length-scales, creating a new industrial landscape for imaging systems and their applications in the UK. Applications of quantum cameras include visualising gas leaks, seeing through smoke, and even looking round corners or underneath our skin.
Current areas of activity
Developing new types of ultra-high sensitive cameras with capabilities that extend beyond the scope of existing camera technology. Single photon cameras, single pixel cameras, extreme time resolution imaging, 3D profiling, hyper-spectral, ultra-low flux covert illumination, imaging beyond line-of-sight, and imaging of local gravity fields. This technology will advance imaging for multiple sectors such as healthcare, space, transport, defence & security and climate change.
A new imaging technique allowing 3D imaging through a fibre the width of a human hair could transform imaging for a wide range of applications in industrial inspection processes and environmental monitoring.
In the longer term, the technique under development could be used for applications in medical imaging. It has been developed by an international team led by Professor Miles Padgett, Principal Investigator for QuantIC, the UK Hub for Quantum Enhanced Imaging.
Professor Padgett said: “In applications like endoscopy and boroscopy, imaging is traditionally achieved by using a bundle of optical fibres, one fibre for every pixel of the image, resulting in devices the thickness of a finger. As an alternative, we are developing a new technique for imaging through a single fibre the width of a human hair. Our ambition is to create a new generation of single-fibre imaging devices that can produce 3D images of remote scenes.”
Building national capabilities
Combined activities and facilities across the programme will create a network of national and international capabilities for academia, industry and government. This will ensure the UK has assured capabilities across the technologies to meet societal, economic and national security objectives, and will build resilience into the sector and the wider economy.
National Quantum Computing Centre
The National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC) is a new research institution funded through UKRI, which is dedicated to accelerating the development of quantum computing by addressing the challenges of scalability. Working with partners across industry, government and the research community, the NQCC will create the necessary R&D capabilities through coordination and delivery of a technical programme, alongside the commissioning and operation of new facilities.
The programme will deliver assured quantum computing capability, enabling the UK to remain internationally competitive. The centre will be headquartered in a purpose-built facility at the STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory campus in Oxfordshire, which is due for completion in 2023.
The Quantum Metrology Institute at NPL
The Quantum Metrology Institute (QMI) at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) was established in 2015 as part of the first phase of the NQTP. The QMI brings together all NPL’s capabilities in science, metrology and major facilities relevant to the understanding, development and test of quantum technologies. The QMI is a national capability for test and evaluation, accelerating the commercialisation of quantum technologies.
NPL teams work in collaboration with industry and academic partners across the country focused on multiple scientific areas including quantum clocks, quantum communications, quantum computing, quantum sensors and quantum materials. Facilities are available to test and characterise materials, components and systems from the full range of technology areas.
NPL offers schemes for industry to access these facilities and opportunities to collaborate with NPL scientists and engineers to address barriers to innovation, reliability and scaling of quantum systems.
To expand these national capabilities in support of the quantum economy, a new facility – the advanced quantum metrology laboratory (AQML) – has been constructed on the NPL Teddington site. The AQML will give NPL even greater capacity to support the UK in the successful commercialisation and adoption of quantum technologies.
SPEQTRE (Space Photon Entanglement Quantum Technology Readiness Experiment)
The £10 million initiative between the UK and Singapore is to build and fly a satellite quantum key distribution (QKD) test bed. Singapore and the UK will co-develop a satellite based on the CubeSat standard that will use QKD technology to test the secure distribution of cryptographic keys over globe-spanning distances.
SPEQTRE consists of a space and ground segment. It comprises an entangled photon transmitter and receiver (developed by Singapore) and an optical payload and ground station (developed by UK). The UK element will deliver a mission design and infrastructure that will provide UK quantum technologies an attractive risk/cost approach to space demonstration.
Transformative technologies are rooted in science. Quantum technologies and the promise for society and economic growth they hold, are not an exhausted area, but an expanding one.
They naturally fall within a family of technologies – electronics, photonics and quantum – within which the UK already has significant strengths. For example, Oxford Instruments is a world leader in cryogenics. Control technologies are another area of strength. The photonics industry in the UK is world leading.
The hubs have made the UK one of the leading quantum research centres. That continuing success is built on the unique strength of the long-lasting partnerships that are forming between industry, research, government and technology; and which are also inter-disciplinary.
The NQTP takes a responsibility for ensuring that these rich and productive relationships across physics, chemistry, mathematics and engineering are sustained and encouraged. We are growing the UK portfolio of quantum science and technology research.
It is widely expected that new quantum tools, which are being developed, will grow further the opportunities for wider science applications.
Quantum Technologies for Fundamental Physics
Quantum Technologies for Fundamental Physics (QTFP) is a £40 million Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) programme that aims to transform our approach to understanding the universe and its evolution.
The QTFP programme aims to demonstrate how quantum technologies can be utilised to investigate key fundamental physics questions such as the search for dark matter, the nature of gravity and measurements of the quantum properties of elementary particles, thus ensuring the UK remains a first rank nation in the physics and quantum communities around the world.
Driving commercialisation and industrialisation
Quantum technologies will create new markets and upend existing ones across many sectors.
The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) for quantum technologies has stimulated commercial development, delivering the value, mentoring and opportunity that underpins the NQTP.
Businesses supported by ISCF with £153 million have raised £425 million in private sector financing since its programme started, twice the forecast estimate. That private sector support is expected to reach £715 million by 2025.
The Challenge has been successful in encouraging overseas companies, such as California-based Rigetti, to invest and collaborate in the UK. This is helping to build the supply chain infrastructure and expertise that will be crucial to sustain the UK as an independent, quantum power.
The Challenge fund helps fledgling ventures to collaborate with industry and academic partners; and to overcome the commercial and technical challenges they face. It forms a crucial part of the NQTP, one that helps all the most successful UK quantum ventures to find their commercial feet as they tread a path from research to market.
The NQTP is a crucial landing platform for spin-outs emerging from academia. It also serves as an entry point for interested end-users to explore commercial opportunities and develop prototype devices and products.
Commercialising quantum technologies
Major funding has been provided through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund in waves:
- ‘Wave 2’ (2018-2021) £20m awarded to collaborative, business led projects to develop quantum enabled devices. Projects will develop a quantum gravity sensor to detect hidden underground structures, a quantum clock for precise miniaturised timing, and quantum key distribution through satellites and fibres.
- ‘Wave 3’ (2020-2025) £153m, supported by £205m from industry, to develop new products and technologies based on advances in quantum science. This fund supports product and service innovations, industry-led technology development projects, the supply chain elements across the quantum sector and supporting early-stage, spin-out and start-up quantum technologies companies to secure venture capital. In 2020, £70m of this funding was committed to 37 projects involving over 80 companies.
- A directory of the ISCF funded projects is available.
UK-Canada collaboration programme
The UK and Canada are global leaders in the race to commercialise quantum technologies into new products, processes and services. In 2020, Innovate UK and NSERC (the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada) ran a joint call for business led bilateral projects to exploit opportunities for the commercialisation of quantum technologies in the two countries.
The competition was the first industry-led partnership between any two countries to develop quantum technologies, and followed an agreement signed between the two countries in 2017 to share quantum expertise through business and academic collaboration.
The eight winning projects will share grants of £2 million from UKRI and C$4.4 million total investments from Canada under the bilateral initiative.
People and know-how are the most important elements of the emerging ecosystem. The UK needs a creative, agile and adaptable, diverse and networked workforce with the right balance of skills to ensure it benefits from opportunities in quantum technologies.
The NQTP aims to ensure doctoral training meets the skills demands within industry, while producing highly qualified researchers; ensure fellowships programmes attract and retain science leaders and future leaders; continue to engage the sector on skills needs for the future; support a diverse and inclusive research environment within quantum technologies; and raise the profile of quantum amongst the public and in syllabuses.
EPSRC Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs)
In 2018, EPSRC funded 75 Centres for Doctoral Training, across the entirety of its remit, with a total value of over £440 million. Within this group of centres, several awards were made that support doctoral training within the field of quantum technologies, including:
- Centre for Doctoral Training in Delivering Quantum Technologies (University College London)
- Centre for Doctoral Training in Quantum Engineering (University of Bristol)
The Centres of Doctoral Training funded in the 2013 Centre for Doctoral Training call have taken in their last student cohort. These included the Centre for Doctoral Training in Quantum Dynamics (Imperial College); the Centre for Doctoral Training in Delivering Quantum Technologies (University College London) and the Centre for Doctoral Training in Quantum Engineering (University of Bristol).
Training and Skills Hubs
The Training and Skills Hubs in Quantum Systems Engineering are nodes within the national network of Quantum Technology Hubs and have delivered a package of skills training, co-working and mobility, and career development initiatives to develop high-level skills in quantum engineering. They have now taken in their last student cohort.
There are three Training and Skills Hubs in Quantum Systems Engineering:
- Training and Skills Hub in Quantum Systems Engineering: Imperial Centre for Quantum Engineering and Science
- Training and Skills Hub in Quantum Systems Engineering: innovation in Quantum Business – Applications, Technology and Engineering (InQuBATE)
- Training and Skills Hub in Quantum Systems Engineering: The Quantum Enterprise
The first phase of Quantum Technologies Fellowships 2015-2020 supported both the individuals and their teams to help realise the country’s potential. The fellowships were aimed at early and established career stage academics whose research focused on the direct exploitation of quantum phenomena to address the challenges of translation of quantum science through technology to eventual application.
The fellowships complemented the other components of the national programme and investments in Quantum Technology Hubs and Centres for Doctoral Training. The fellows developed potentially transformative research in areas that contribute to the development of novel quantum technologies.
EPSRC are in the process of funding a further round of fellows, with a number being co-sponsored by the National Quantum Computing Centre. The results will be announced in spring 2022.
Since 2014, Dstl/MOD has funded over 60 quantum related PhD research studies at UK universities in support of the NQTP’s objective of engagement with academia. These studies focus on fundamental and novel research for enabling technologies and subsystems in both practical and theoretical terms for timing, imaging and sensing needs.
Common to partners, a key aspect of this research for defence and security is to decrease size, weight and power requirements of existing systems whilst still maintaining suitable performance.
During this same period, NPL has part funded and/or hosted over 75 quantum PhD students, many of whom have delivered their full research programme at NPL working with the NPL team. At the end of their research many have gone on to work within the UK quantum industry.
National Physical Laboratory skills programme
NPL support training and skills in quantum technology through their STEM Futures programme.
Quantum City seeks to raise the profile of quantum technologies amongst the public and schools to build the future quantum workforce and facilitate discussions about the role of these technologies in society.
It is an initiative that combines various groups within the NQTP to collectively provide coordinated and cohesive messaging around awareness of quantum technologies to society and their specific applications for various aspects of everyday life.
This initiative aims to encourage the uptake of STEM subjects and signpost career pathways in the fields of quantum science and technology development.
Bristol-based QLM Tech is developing a quantum gas imaging camera to offer continuous monitoring of terminals, rigs and other sources of emissions.
At the heart of QLM’s technology is a revolutionary combination of lidar and quantum single photon detection technology using a single photon avalanche diode (SPAD). Its quantum camera is the only solution that can provide affordable, scalable monitoring of greenhouse gas emissions at the facility scale on a continuous, autonomous basis.
On the eve of COP26, QLM carried out a successful first trial of the quantum gas camera at the real-world National Grid Gas Bacton terminal on the North Norfolk coast.