Budget boost for UK quantum scene

£2.5BN, decade-long follow up to National Quantum Technologies Programme defined in new National Quantum Strategy.

The UK government says it will invest £2.5 billion in quantum technology development over the next ten years, in an effort to build on the existing National Quantum Technologies Programme (NQTP) established nearly a decade ago.

In its Spring Budget 2023 document, the UK Treasury briefly outlined the plans to double public investment in the technology, largely confirming an earlier report that had appeared in the Financial Times ($).

However, whereas the FT article focused on quantum computing, the budget document outlined a broader scope, in keeping with the NQTP’s creation of four regional innovation “hubs” focused on quantum sensing, imaging, and encryption efforts, as well as computing and timing applications.

Quantum Strategy

The next decade of development will be guided by the new National Quantum Strategy, published in tandem with the Spring Budget.

“Quantum technologies are expected to have transformative and wide-ranging impacts, through the development of new types of computers, secure communications, and wider improvements to sensing, imaging, and timing,” states the Treasury’s budget text, referencing the quantum strategy that it has been consulting on for the past year.

“The government will invest a total of £2.5 billion over ten years, focusing on realizing four goals: ensuring the UK is home to world-leading quantum science and engineering; supporting businesses through innovation funding opportunities and by providing access to world-leading R&D facilities; driving the use of quantum technologies in the UK; and creating a national and international regulatory framework.”

The same document also mentions that two quantum projects based in Glasgow – led by the University of Glasgow and M-Squared Lasers – will receive funding via the £100 million “Innovation Accelerators” program.

Early mover

Acknowledged as an early mover in quantum technology thanks to the NQTP efforts, the UK is regarded as the country for quantum technology development in Europe – although major funding schemes in Germany and The Netherlands may threaten that position in the future.

The existing UK program has also spawned a number of university spin-offs looking to exploit that first-mover advantage, with several attracting significant venture funding.

Speaking during last November’s Quantum Technology Showcase in central London, UK science minister George Freeman MP said that the UK was in a global race to develop quantum technology and applications, acknowledging that support in both the US and China was an order of magnitude greater.

In an opening address at the showcase, Freeman also stressed a need to connect London’s financial markets more strongly with the emerging quantum scene, part of a wider bid to make innovation a much larger part of the UK economy than it is currently.

“[We] want to back companies that are growing fast, and to set international regulations and standards that will make us leaders,” he said at the time. The next phase of growth will now be guided by the UK government’s just-published National Quantum Strategy.