Quantum Leap as Clark unveils UK's network of Quantum Technology Hubs

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A new £120 million national network of Quantum Technology Hubs, that will explore the properties of quantum mechanics and how they can be harnessed for use in technology, has been unveiled today at the University of Birmingham.

The new network will involve 17 universities and 132 companies and will be funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) from the £270 million investment in the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme announced by the Chancellor, George Osborne in his Autumn Statement of 2013.

The network will consist of four hubs which were selected after a competitive peer reviewed process. They will be led by the universities of Birmingham, Glasgow, Oxford and York.

This programme will deliver a suite of research and innovation investments from a number of partners including EPSRC, Innovate UK, BIS, National Physical Laboratory (NPL), Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN).

Greg Clark, Minister of State for Universities, Science and Cities said: This exciting new Quantum Hubs network will push the boundaries of knowledge and exploit new technologies, to the benefit of healthcare, communications and security.

This investment in Quantum technologies has the potential to bring game-changing advantages to future timing, sensing and navigation capabilities that could support multi-billion pound markets in the UK and globally.

Today’s announcement is another example of the Government’s recognition of the UK’s science base and its critical contribution to our sustained economic growth.

Professor Philip Nelson, EPSRC’s Chief Executive said: These new Hubs will build on our previous investments in quantum science. They will draw together scientists, engineers and technologists from across the UK who will explore how we can exploit the intriguing properties of the quantum realm. The area offers great promise, and the Hubs will keep the UK at the leading edge of this exciting field.

The capabilities in Quantum Technologies offer potentially transformative impacts in key areas such as quantum metrology and sensors; quantum simulators; quantum computers and quantum secure communications.

Notes for Editors

UK National Quantum Technologies Programme

The UK National Quantum Technologies Programme aims to ensure the successful transition of quantum technologies from laboratory to industry. The programme is delivered by EPSRC, Innovate UK, BIS, NPL, GCHQ, Dstl and the KTN.

Quantum Metrology Institute

As a separate but linked part of the programme, The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is establishing a Quantum Metrology Institute (QMI) at Teddington. The UK National Quantum Technologies Programme will contribute £4 million to the Institute, which will cover all of NPL’s leading-edge quantum science and metrology research and provide the expertise and facilities needed for academia and industry to test, validate, and ultimately commercialise new quantum research and technologies.

The Four Hubs

The University of Birmingham (led by Professor Kai Bongs) - Quantum Sensing and Metrology

Quantum Sensors and Metrology will dramatically improve the accuracy of measurement of time, frequency, rotation, magnetic fields, gravity and other key fundamental measures, which will have impact across a wide range of fields, from electronic stock trading to GPS navigation. They will deliver unprecedented views into the brain for dementia research and into the ground allowing reduced roadworks, detecting sinkholes and finding archaeological treasures.

The Birmingham-led Hub will partner with academics at the universities of Southampton, Strathclyde, Sussex, Nottingham and Glasgow and aims to build a supply chain for quantum sensor technology, build a series of quantum sensor and metrology prototype devices and develop the market and links between academia and industry.

The University of Glasgow (led by Professor Miles Padgett) - Quantum Sensing / Imaging

The Quantum Enhanced Imaging Hub will develop new types of camera with unprecedented sensitivity and the capacity to time the arrival of the detected light. These cameras will open up new markets in medical imaging; security and environmental monitoring; and manufacturing of high value materials. Quantum cameras will be able to visualise gas leaks, see clearly through smoke, look round corners or underneath the skin. Quantum sensors developed by the Hub will detect single contaminant molecules and detect electromagnetic and gravitational fields with exceptional sensitivity.

The University of Glasgow-led hub will partner with academics from the universities of Bristol, Edinburgh, Oxford, Strathclyde, and Heriot-Watt University.

The University of Oxford (led by Professor Ian Walmsley) - Quantum Computing / Simulation

Quantum information processing will enable users to solve problems that even the most powerful of today's supercomputers struggle with. They will accelerate the discovery of new drugs or materials by simulating different molecular designs using programmable software, thus dramatically reducing the laborious trial and error of making each molecule in the laboratory.

Another application is making sense of "big data", the immense torrent of information about economics, climate, and health that can help us make better predictions of future trends.

The Oxford-led hub will partner with academics from the universities of Bath, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Leeds, Southampton, Strathclyde, Sussex and Warwick, as well as dozens of national and international companies.

Networked Quantum Information Technologies (NQIT)

The University of York (led by Professor Tim Spiller) - Quantum Communications

Quantum Communications can transform the security of data and transactions across multiple sectors and users, ranging from government and industry to commerce and consumers.

The York-led hub is aiming for breakthroughs that will lead to widespread and affordable use of the technology. These include: chip-scale integration based on Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), thus reducing the size and manufacturing costs of equipment; building a UK Quantum network for the demonstration and testing of new equipment and services - providing early access to advanced technologies for industry, business clusters and communities of users.

The Hub partnership includes leading researchers from the universities of Bristol, Cambridge, Heriot-Watt, Leeds, Royal Holloway, Sheffield, Strathclyde and York, collaborating with word-class researchers and labs in industrial partners.

Several companies and organisations are formally involved in one or more of the Hubs these include: BT, Toshiba, e2v, M Squared Lasers, Dstl, AWE, NPL, Thales, Coherent Lasers, BP, Compound Semiconductor, GCHQ, Selex, Oxford Instruments, and Kelvin Nanotechnology.

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK's main agency for funding research in engineering and physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800 milion a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone's health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.

Innovate UK

Innovate UK is the new name for the Technology Strategy Board - we’re the UK’s innovation agency, accelerating economic growth. We know that taking a new idea to market is a challenge. We fund, support and connect innovative businesses through a unique mix of people and programmes to accelerate sustainable economic growth.

The National Physical Laboratory

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is one of the UK’s leading science facilities and research centres. It is a world-leading centre of excellence in developing and applying the most accurate standards, science and technology available.

NPL occupies a unique position as the UK’s National Measurement Institute and sits at the intersection between scientific discovery and real world application. Its expertise and original research have underpinned quality of life, innovation and competitiveness for UK citizens and business for more than a century:

  • NPL provides companies with access to world leading support and technical expertise, inspiring the absolute confidence required to realise competitive advantage from new materials, techniques and technologies
  • NPL expertise and services are crucial in a wide range of social applications - helping to save lives, protect the environment and enable citizens to feel safe and secure. Support in areas such as the development of advanced medical treatments and environmental monitoring helps secure a better quality of life for all
  • NPL develops and maintains the nation’s primary measurement standards, supporting an infrastructure of traceable measurement throughout the UK and the world, to ensure accuracy and consistency.

Government Communications Headquarters

Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is one of the three UK Intelligence and Security Agencies, along with MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). GCHQ works to protect the UK and its citizens from a range of threats to national security, including from terrorism, serious and organised crime and cyber-attack.

GCHQ welcomes the announcement of investment in Quantum Technology across a range of companies and universities, including several already recognised by GCHQ and EPSRC as Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security.

Quantum Technology covers a wide range of scientific research and technological innovation with significant potential impact on GCHQ's security mission. Of particular interest to GCHQ is Quantum Computation, although a challenging and long-term aspect of Quantum Technology, but capable of having a major effect on all forms of communication and cyber security, and the Q Tech programme is expected to accelerate development in this area. In line with this initiative, GCHQ has started a programme of internal research and funding of academic research into "post-quantum" security requirements and applications. (We distinguish this from Quantum Key Distribution - securing communications channels using quantum technology -- which has been available for some time.) Communications-Electronics Security Group (CESG) advice on this technology remains that there is not yet adequate research into the security of such systems and their integration into conventional communications channels for CESG to approve their use. GCHQ welcomes more robust research into QKD.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) maximises the impact of science and technology (S&T) for the defence and security of the UK, supplying sensitive and specialist S&T services for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and wider government.

Dstl is a trading fund of the MOD, run along commercial lines. It is one of the principal government organisations dedicated to S&T in the defence and security field, with three main sites at Porton Down, near Salisbury, Portsdown West, near Portsmouth, and Fort Halstead, near Sevenoaks.

Dstl works with a wide range of partners and suppliers in industry, in academia and overseas. Around 60% of MOD’s Science and Technology Programme is delivered by these external partners and suppliers.

Reference: PN 83-14