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Quantum computing is the focus of a £45 million ($57 million) investment by the U.K. government announced on Feb. 5. The money goes toward finding practical uses for quantum computing and creating a “quantum-enabled economy” by 2033.

Government investment goes to prototypes and business accelerator

Of the total investment, £30 million ($38 million) is dedicated to developing and delivering novel, advanced quantum computers. Some of this money goes to creating controlled environments in which engineers and scientists can experiment. The remaining £15 million ($19 million) of the investment goes to the Quantum Catalyst Fund, which is awarded to public sector organisations with quantum computing projects intended to solve practical problems like optimizing public energy use.

In essence, the companies chosen for National Quantum Computing Centre funding will work on developing quantum hardware itself. Meanwhile, the Quantum Catalyst Fund supports feasibility studies for how quantum technology can be used to improve public services.

Winners named in the Quantum Computing Testbeds competition

The National Quantum Computing Centre announced that seven companies have progressed to the next round of competition in their development of quantum computing hardware prototypes:

  • ORCA Computing.
  • Oxford Ionics.
  • Cold Quanta UK.
  • QuEra UK.
  • Rigetti.
  • Aegiq.
  • Quantum Motion.

These organisations are trying different types of quantum computing platforms — among them trapped-ion, superconducting, photonics and neutral atoms — to see which is most effective for particular types of problems. Each company studies different ways to work with qubits, the basic unit of information in quantum computing.

Next, the seven chosen companies will have access to a NQCC facility to deploy their platforms. Results are expected in March 2025.

The Quantum Catalyst Fund aims to solve public sector problems

The Quantum Catalyst Fund is managed by Innovate UK (a division of the U.K. government’s research and innovation public sector body, UKRI) and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

The companies that received money from the Quantum Catalyst Fund are:

  • Quantinuum (chemistry simulations).
  • MoniRail (railway navigation).
  • Cerca Magnetics (brain imaging for conditions like epilepsy, concussion and dementia).
  • Delta g (gravity cartography).
  • Q-CTRL UK (quantum optimised train schedules).
  • Phasecraft (improved energy use in the public grid).

These six companies were chosen after a three-month first phase of the competition. In phase 2, they will develop prototypes and demonstrate what their projects do.

“We are providing our world-leading businesses and institutions the resources and tools needed to build a strong foundation in quantum computing with the potential to scale their activities for long-term competitive advantage,” said Kedar Pandya, executive director of cross-council programs at UKRI, in the press release. “This investment will help our researchers and innovators develop the blueprint for quantum computing hardware and software and secure the UK’s place in this developing field.”

SEE: Quantum computing could be a $6B business for Australia, piggybacking off of U.S. investment. (TechRepublic)

Searching for practical uses for quantum computing

On top of the £45 million investment in February, the U.K. devoted £2.5 billion ($3.1 billion) in March 2023 in support of the National Quantum Strategy. This strategy aims to develop quantum technologies over 10 years, starting in 2024.

Quantum technologies are one of the government’s five critical technologies identified in the U.K. Science and Technology Framework as technologies with the potential to solve societal challenges, create well-paid jobs and boost the economy.

“Quantum technologies have the potential to meet some of the greatest challenges society faces,” said Will Drury, executive director of digital and technologies at Innovate UK, in the press release. “By unleashing computing power that goes far beyond existing digital technology, we can reach new frontiers in sensing, timing, imaging, and communications.”


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