Go back

Chancellor confirms ‘9th’ great tech with £270m quantum fund

A network of five quantum technology centres are to be established as part of the UK government's plans to support translation of quantum research.

Chancellor George Osborne announced in his autumn statement on 5 December that the government would devote £270 million over five years to “support the UK’s world-leading quantum research into applications and new industries—from quantum computation to secure communication”.

Osborne had tweeted on 4 December that he had been meeting “eminent physicists” at 11 Downing Street “to announce £270m investment in quantum technology”.

The autumn statement reveals that the investment comprises £80m in capital funding from existing budgets, plus £190m of new resource funding from the Treasury.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will receive £234m and £32m will go to the Technology Strategy Board. The remaining £4m will be used to provide equipment at a new advanced metrology laboratory, to be housed at the National Physical Laboratory.

Science minister David Willetts said the investment in the centres “will transform our capacity” and build “on our strong science base”, helping to “deliver future economic growth”.

Willetts told Research Fortnight in November that he saw quantum technologies as an informal addition to his Eight Great Technologies, explaining that the field is “probably an area where there’s now greater interest” than when he published his pamphlet outlining his chosen technologies in January.

The EPSRC held a workshop on developing quantum technologies in October. The council also chaired a roundtable discussion, attended by Willetts, researchers, and industrial representatives, to consider how best to translate quantum science to technological applications in July.

An attendee of the roundtable discussion, Myunshik Kim, chair in theoretical quantum information sciences at Imperial College London, says he fully supports the new initiative, adding "quantum will be the main issue for any paradigm change of technologies". He warns however that "there are different time scales involved in different quantum technologies," saying that "for more revolutionary technologies, a strategy beyond the current five year plan will be required". 

Discussing the UK’s standing in the field, Kim warns that other countries have already started investing in translation of quantum technologies, but says that it is still early enough for the UK to “lead the technology” and to “set the standard”.