25 Oct 2021

Leading the pack: Quantum commercialisation in the UK

Quantum computing has the potential to generate productivity gains and end user value between $450 and $850 billion over the next 2-3 decades. Dr. Michael Cuthbert, Director of the UK National Quantum Computing Centre explores how the UK is positioning to harness the power of quantum. Part of techUK's Quantum Commercialisation week. #QuantumUK


Shared by the National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC)

Quantum science involves harnessing the unique ways that light and matter behave at tiny atomic or subatomic levels. This science has already transformed people’s lives by developing the building blocks of modern computers, the mobile phone, and the MRI scanner. A second quantum revolution is underway, ushering a new era of computing and quantum information processing. This will be a step change in computational power over our current ‘classical’ technology, making intractable problems today, solvable in the future.

The potential is exciting, but the technology is still at an early stage, with many technological and engineering challenges to be overcome, thus necessitating a comprehensive programme of research, innovation, and training activities.

The availability of quantum computing will impact many sectors, enabling improvements in efficiency, productivity and competitiveness as well as the creation of new products and services. Recent estimates indicate that $5-10 billion could be realised by technology providers and end users over the next 3-5 years, assuming the technology scales at the predicted pace. In the longer term, as we move towards practical, general-purpose quantum computers, it has been estimated that quantum computing has the potential to generate productivity gains and end user value between $450 and $850 billion over the next 2-3 decades.

The UK Government has long recognised the potential of quantum technologies and has committed £1 billion of public and private investment over 10 years (2014-24) through the National Quantum Technologies Programme (NQTP), which spans the areas of sensing, timing, imaging, communications and computing. More recently, greater emphasis has been placed on driving commercialisation and economic impact. Onto this network of academic research, government engagement, industry and venture investment, supply chain growth and international collaboration the National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC) was launched in September 2020.

The NQCC seeks to enhance the UK’s global leadership in quantum computing, help translate UK research strengths into innovation, and enable the creation of the first generation of quantum computers that will help build a resilient future economy. In particular, the NQCC seeks to accelerate the development of quantum computing by addressing the challenges of scaling – technological and user adoption. The Centre will also provide research institutions, industry and end-users with early access to quantum computing resources as they are developed around the world. This will enable them to explore its potential to develop use-cases and applications. In supporting the government's ambition to establish the UK as the world's first quantum-ready nation the NQCC seeks to accelerate the quantum computing roadmap towards commercialization of the technology.

That pathway to commercialisation is lengthy; hardware development costly and systems integration challenging. Although quantum computing is expected to be a disruptive technology with wide economic impacts across all high-value sectors of the economy, broad commercial applications of quantum computing may remain several years away.

Despite this long term outlook and the need for patient capital there is no need for pessimism, the UK already has 43 quantum technology start-up companies that have raised over £135m between them, employing over 370 people, of which the majority are in quantum computing. According to NQCC research, of the key quantum computing end-user industry sectors; UK financial services, chemicals, pharma and energy contributed over £260bn to the economy with sector growth drivers of exports and internal R&D investments.

There are a growing number of international programmes, research groups, start-ups and industrial players.

Given the potential impact, quantum computing is unsurprisingly attracting significant investment. High profile progress has been made among industrial players in North America. However, around the world the pace of development and the investment is growing. Many of the leading industrial efforts have developed from academic research groups with corporate venturing a growing feature of the quantum computing landscape with direct investment into academic groups and start-ups.

Despite the global pandemic over $10bn of new public investment has been announced since Jan 2020 with over $1bn awarded through public competitions and a similar amount raised in private capital in the same time period. Global annual public sector spend on quantum technologies has more than doubled since 2015. Looking across corporate engagement, number of start-ups, capital raised and supply chain maturity as measures of commercial progress the UK is well positioned.

The NQCC will help ensure that world leading research and innovation continues to grow and flourish in the UK – keeping us in that leading pack.

Quantum Commercialisation Week

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Laura Foster

Laura Foster

Programme Manager, Technology and Innovation, techUK

Laura is techUK’s Programme Manager for Technology and Innovation.

She supports the application and expansion of emerging technologies across business, including Geospatial Data, Quantum Computing, AR/VR/XR and Edge technologies.

Before joining techUK, Laura worked internationally in London, Singapore and across the United States as a conference researcher and producer covering enterprise adoption of emerging technologies. This included being part of the strategic team at London Tech Week.

Laura has a degree in History (BA Hons) from Durham University, focussing on regional social history. Outside of work she loves reading, travelling and supporting rugby team St. Helens, where she is from.

[email protected]

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Sue Daley

Sue Daley

Director, Technology and Innovation

Sue leads techUK's Technology and Innovation work.

This includes work programmes on cloud, data protection, data analytics, AI, digital ethics, Digital Identity and Internet of Things as well as emerging and transformative technologies and innovation policy. She has been recognised as one of the most influential people in UK tech by Computer Weekly's UKtech50 Longlist and in 2021 was inducted into the Computer Weekly Most Influential Women in UK Tech Hall of Fame. A key influencer in driving forward the data agenda in the UK Sue is co-chair of the UK government's National Data Strategy Forum. As well as being recognised in the UK's Big Data 100 and the Global Top 100 Data Visionaries for 2020 Sue has also been shortlisted for the Milton Keynes Women Leaders Awards and was a judge for the Loebner Prize in AI. In addition to being a regular industry speaker on issues including AI ethics, data protection and cyber security, Sue was recently a judge for the UK Tech 50 and is a regular judge of the annual UK Cloud Awards.

Prior to joining techUK in January 2015 Sue was responsible for Symantec's Government Relations in the UK and Ireland. She has spoken at events including the UK-China Internet Forum in Beijing, UN IGF and European RSA on issues ranging from data usage and privacy, cloud computing and online child safety. Before joining Symantec, Sue was senior policy advisor at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). Sue has an BA degree on History and American Studies from Leeds University and a Masters Degree on International Relations and Diplomacy from the University of Birmingham. Sue is a keen sportswoman and in 2016 achieved a lifelong ambition to swim the English Channel.

[email protected]
020 7331 2055

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Zoe Brockbank

Programme Coordinator, Policy, Tech and Innovation, techUK

Zoe is a Programme Assistant, supporting techUK's work across Policy, Technology and Innovation.

The team makes the tech case to government and policymakers in Westminster, Whitehall, Brussels and across the UK on the most pressing issues affecting this sector and supports the Technology and Innovation team in the application and expansion of emerging technologies across business, including Geospatial Data, Quantum Computing, AR/VR/XR and Edge technologies.

Before joining techUK, Zoe worked as a Business Development and Membership Coordinator at London First and prior to that Zoe worked in Partnerships at a number of Forex and CFD brokerage firms including Think Markets, ETX Capital and Central Markets.

Zoe has a degree (BA Hons) from the University of Westminster and in her spare time, Zoe enjoys travelling, painting, keeping fit and socialising with friends.

[email protected]
020 7331 2174

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