£15 million competition to accelerate the use of quantum technologies across Government

08/09/2023

QUANTUM technology could revolutionise work across Government, including transport, space, health and net zero – from boosting computing power for new drug discovery, to enabling previously-impossible ways of scanning and sensing
30 projects have been chosen to take part in phase 1 of the competition
The first winners of a £15 million competition to explore the benefits of using quantum technologies in the Government’s work across areas like health, transport and net zero have been announced today (7 September).

The Quantum Catalyst Fund aims to accelerate the adoption of quantum solutions by the public sector and will ensure the UK Government is well-placed to fully harness the benefits of using these technologies across a range of policy areas.

Quantum technologies – one of the Government’s five critical technologies – are devices and systems using quantum mechanics to provide capabilities that ‘classical’ machines like binary computers cannot.

They already offer possible solutions to some of our greatest challenges in society and provide future capabilities that are yet to be explored. These technologies hold the potential to tackle intricate problems that currently surpass the capacities of even the most advanced classical computers and will allow us to reach new frontiers in sensing, timing, imaging, and communications. Over the next ten years, quantum technologies are expected to revolutionise many aspects of life in the UK and bring enormous benefits such as helping to grow our economy and create well-paid jobs across the country – one of the Prime Minister’s five priorities.

Examples include:

An exponential increase in computing power from quantum computers could revolutionise our healthcare system – from dramatically improved drug discovery techniques to providing personalised treatment to an individual based on genetic and environmental factors.
Quantum sensing and imaging can provide unprecedented insight about what lies beneath the ground – saving billions in environmental monitoring and on large-scale construction projects.
Quantum clocks and communication could help us develop new navigation and timing capabilities without the need for a satellite link, providing even greater resilience for railways, telecommunications and emergency services.
The first round of feasibility studies under the new fund will explore how this 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.

Some of the areas of interest that the Government has identified include:

Transport – How could quantum technologies improve our ability to survey underground to improve infrastructure project delivery or provide more precise positioning and timing of trains in real time.
Space – How might quantum technologies be integrated into space-based platforms to provide insights into the Earth’s climate and its environment or be utilised for space-based applications.
Health – How can quantum technologies provide new or enhanced capabilities in healthcare.
Crime – Could we use quantum technologies to enhance our ability to detect anomalies in cargo and parcels, such as contraband or people smuggling.
Defence – How can quantum computing solve data analytics challenges in defence.
Net Zero – How can quantum technologies help to reach net zero.
UK Minister of State for the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, George Freeman MP, said:

“The Quantum revolution is set to be as transformational as the rise of classical computing, and is now starting to open up whole new fields from superfast computing to navigation, allowing us to do things that were previously impossible. We can use our scientific leadership in quantum to build exciting new career paths, businesses and even whole sectors here in the UK, boosting economic growth.

“We are determined to continue to invest and lead from the front in quantum infrastructure, regulation, standards and skills to fully exploit it’s potential to drive new economic opportunities. Our Quantum Catalyst Fund will help to push the boundaries of this technology’s development, and use public sector procurement to help nurture new companies and deliver benefits for citizens in public services to benefit us all.”

The competition is being delivered by Innovate UK in conjunction with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT). It is part of the UK’s National Quantum Technologies Programme which has been running since 2014 to put the UK at the forefront of quantum technologies globally.

Quantum was identified as one of the five technologies that are most critical to the UK alongside artificial intelligence, engineering biology, future telecommunications and semiconductors. Quantum technologies will revolutionise many aspects of life in the UK and bring enormous benefits to the UK economy, society, and the way we can protect our planet. The UK has a world-leading position in quantum expertise, and this technology is one of the top priorities for the Government, as set out in the UK Science and Technology Framework.

30 projects have been awarded funding in phase 1 of the competition which will run for 3 months and explore the feasibility of applying quantum technologies to help solve challenges for Government. At the end of phase 1, the most promising concepts will be awarded a contract to phase 2 to develop a prototype and demonstration of the solution.

The Quantum Catalyst Fund is part of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) which is funded by DSIT and Innovate UK. SBRI offers organisations the opportunity to work directly with the public sector to develop new technologies and processes, helping to meet efficiency targets and improving public services. It supports the research and development of solutions to solve public sector challenges.

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 programme.

The strategy sets out a bold and ambitious approach to supporting quantum technologies in the UK across the broad spectrum of quantum computing, sensing, timing, imaging and communications. It sets out how the UK will develop its strengths across different hardware platforms, software and components, and reinforce our capabilities throughout the supply chains.

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