18 Sep 2023
by Francesca Schiavello

The Hartree Centre’s role in the UK’s quantum future

Guest blog from Francesca Schiavello, Quantum Software Engineer at the Hartree Centre. Part of techUK's #SuperchargeUKTech Week 2023.

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In a world where technology and innovation drive our economies at exponential rates, quantum computing has the potential to further revolutionise our society. The recently published UK Quantum Strategy acknowledges the need to pro-actively and intentionally invest in the quantum field in order to reap its benefits and become a quantum leader.

Over the past 10 years, the UK has made substantial progress in this field, already positioning itself as a global powerhouse in the realm of quantum computing. The next 10 years will see an even heavier investment to solidify its position, spread out across public sector and government partners, and particularly within UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The outlined strategy will be all-encompassing, beginning with investment into infrastructure, hardware, and human capital, by attracting both home-grown and international talent and going on to fund graduate and PhD schemes, research collaborations and subsidising access to machines and hardware.

As part of UKRI, the Hartree Centre is striving to generate this quantum reality from multiple angles. Our Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation programme has an Emerging Technology strand that specialises in the practical application of quantum computing technologies and is dedicated to advancing and accelerating quantum strategies. Our team is turning cutting-edge research into novel solutions for a variety of industries to boost the UK economy and begin the commercialisation of future quantum applications.

From research collaborations with established companies like IBM and AstraZeneca, to smaller and more recent start-ups in the quantum world, we collaborate across the board. While we often work with other government bodies, universities, and research institutes, we pride ourselves on being a primarily challenge-led research and innovation centre and prioritising industrial applications of our research. The work produced from our collaborations can be seen in recent publications, always aiming to find solutions for real world challenges, such as our research into quantum-enhanced drug discovery. At the Hartree Centre, we realise the importance of sharing our work and knowledge to enable and strengthen the UK knowledge base as a whole and contribute to establishing the UK as a key player in quantum computing acceleration and advancement. By hosting workshops and participating at major conferences and events, such as our Quantum and Hybrid Quantum-Classical Computing Approaches Workshop at ISC23, we are expanding our network of partnerships and contacts, and engaging with key collaborators across like Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the USA, and Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) in Germany.

Looking beyond quantum computing, as a centre with an array of diverse technical expertise, we are in prime position to integrate emerging technologies with established methods and tools from data science, AI and software engineering and apply them to industry sectors and scientific fields, from engineering and materials chemistry to life sciences and healthcare. Given the challenges that quantum computing faces in the near-term due to current hardware limitations, we believe that integrated and hybrid approaches are the inevitable way forward.

High performance computing (HPC) is not in competition with emerging quantum fields, but rather the two will be able to compliment each other. Given the diverse human and hardware capital that we have at our disposal at the Hartree Centre, we are forging a path to combine expertise and technologies, and thus provide commercial industry with valuable insights that have the highest potential for useful application. This will enable businesses to make judgements about which technologies are right for them and inform future investment decisions.

As part of our commitment to sharing our knowledge and expertise we also provide training courses and materials, for example our workshop at SC22 on best practices. As part of our EXPLAIN training programme, we have also created Fundamentals of Quantum Computing, a free self-paced online training course which we would recommend for quantum computing beginners or those looking to sidestep from a different field. 

After all, this is an “all hands on deck” situation to create a new quantum economy, and Hartree Centre is keen to bring everyone on board!

Supercharging Innovation Week 2023

techUK members explored the emerging and transformative technologies at the heart of UK research and innovation. This week was designed to investigate how to leverage the UK's strengths and push forward the application and commercialisation of these technologies, highlighting best practice from academia, industry and Government that is enabling success. You can catch up via the link below.

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Francesca Schiavello

Quantum software engineer, The Hartree Centre