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M Squared and Strathclyde quantum partnership secures £4.6M

28 Oct 2019

Strathclyde quantum technology partnership secures funding to support commercial collaboration with M Squared.

A University of Strathclyde-led quantum technology partnership, aiming to develop some of the world's most powerful computers, has secured funding worth a total of £4.6 M ($5.9 M).

Researchers at Strathclyde and photonics and quantum technology company M Squared are collaborating to develop new computing technology, which they say could better protect financial transactions, enhance traffic management and support aerospace security.

The research has gained £2.6 million in Prosperity Partnership funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council as part of UK Research and Innovation, while M Squared has invested a further £1.7 million, and Strathclyde £300,000.

Future applications of the technology developed in this partnership include accelerated drug design, novel materials for aerospace and manufacturing and improved efficiency in energy distribution across the UK’s electricity National Grid.

The project will complement the work of the UK-wide Quantum Technology Hubs, which explore the properties of quantum mechanics and how they can be harnessed for use in technology. Strathclyde is the only university that is a partner in all four of the hubs.

Disruptive, scalable

Strathclyde's lead in the Prosperity Partnership project is Dr Jonathan Pritchard, a Research Fellow in the University's Department of Physics. He commented, "We are really excited to have secured significant funding to develop this new experimental platform, which offers the potential to be truly disruptive in its ability to scale in future to extremely large numbers of qubits.

"This is great opportunity, both for Strathclyde and for the UK as a whole, to work directly with global leaders in supplying commercial laser systems to quantum computing activities.

"This project will develop a new platform for quantum computing, based on scalable arrays of neutral atoms, and will involve partners from security and defence, aerospace and fintech to establish applications where quantum computing delivers an advantage."

Dr Graeme Malcolm, CEO and founder at M Squared, said, "This partnership a demonstration of the scientific community harnessing the enormous benefits of collaboration between world-leading research institutions and advanced industry in the quest to develop frontier technologies.

"Cross-sector investment is proving critical for progressing the UK's quantum computing capabilities, and we are extremely proud to be at the forefront.

The UK Government’s Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom said, "Cyber-attacks can have a particularly nasty impact on businesses, from costing them thousands of pounds in essential revenue to reputational harm.

“It's critical that we are ahead of the game and developing new technologies and methods to confront future threats, supporting our businesses and giving them peace of mind to deliver their products and services safely. Investing in our world-leading researchers and businesses to develop better defence systems makes good business and security sense."

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, commented, "These investments will help to ensure the UK has a robust system in place to withstand cyber threats and create a safer future online, increasing trust and productivity in our economy."

Quantum computing

Unlike conventional computers, quantum computers work on a system of qubits, which can be zeroes and ones simultaneously. As the number of qubits increases, the power of these computers rises dramatically, with each additional atom doubling the computer's capacity. The new project is targeting 100 qubits, offering more computational power than the largest currently available supercomputer.

Dr Pritchard received a Quantum Technologies Fellowship worth £950,000 in 2015 to support his research in the field. The proposals in his project partly arise from this research during the five-year fellowship.

The funding announcement follows the recent opening by M Squared of a quantum research facility, based in Strathclyde's Inovo building in Glasgow City Innovation District. The center will be instrumental to the enhancement of M Squared's ability to compete globally in the commercialisation of quantum technologies.

Quantum leap: Jim McDonald, Derek MacKay, and Graeme Malcom.

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