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UK politicians to probe quantum tech commercialization efforts

21 Mar 2023

Parliamentary committee chaired by Greg Clark MP looking into new £2.5BN 'National Quantum Strategy'.

A committee of UK politicians has embarked on an inquiry into the commercialization of quantum technologies in the country, following the launch of a new National Quantum Strategy in last week’s spring budget.

Announced by the House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee, which is chaired by Greg Clark MP - a previous secretary of state in the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy - the inquiry is already seeking feedback on the topic.

The National Quantum Strategy is a £2.5 billion, decade-long plan aimed at further developing quantum applications across sensing, communications, imaging, timing, healthcare, computing and more.

It is a follow-up to the National Quantum Technologies Programme, which kicked off in 2014 with the establishment of four university-led “hubs” focused on specific application areas.

Global competition
In her introduction to the new quantum effort Michelle Donelan MP, now secretary of state in the recently established Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology, wrote that the aim was to “make the UK the home for cutting-edge scientific breakthroughs, the best place in the world to start and grow a quantum business, a leading voice in the international quantum and tech community, and a magnet for international quantum talent”.

However, the document also acknowledges the stiff level of competition globally, from the US and China in particular, as well as Germany and The Netherlands, countries where quantum efforts have also received significant central support.

Responding to news of the ten-year strategy last week Steve Metcalfe, CEO of UK-based quantum investment fund Quantum Exponentional, said:

“For the UK to compete on a global scale we need to achieve greater investment in research and innovation. The Government’s commitment to invest a total of £2.5 billion has the potential to significantly accelerate the commercialization of quantum but a lot more still needs to be done to support startup companies in the sector which are predominantly financed through private equity.”

Among Quantum Exponentional’s portfolio companies are the University of Bristol gas imaging spin-out QLM Technologies, encryption firm Arqit Quantum, and Siloton, which is developing photonic integrated circuits for healthcare and non-destructive testing applications.

Metcalfe believes that in order to create a market for new quantum technologies, a joined-up approach between the government and the investment community is essential, for example by using pension funds to ensure enough startup finance for the UK to play a pivotal role as the industry moves towards commercialization.

“As an investor in the industry, we share the Chancellor’s vision to make the UK a world-leading quantum-enabled economy by 2033, but believe this will only happen if more is done to support investment in the sector,” he added.

Inquiry topics
The new parliamentary inquiry will focus on how the UK’s quantum industry and prospects compare with those other nations, as well as the implications for national security.

“MPs seek evidence on whether the Government’s ten-year vision and £2.5 billion programme for quantum is fit for purpose, as well as the further support the sector needs to commercialize quantum technologies,” the committee announced.

Chairman Clark added: “The Government has identified quantum as of strategic importance to the UK. We currently punch above our weight in developing quantum technologies but face fierce competition.

“We want to step into Ant-Man’s world and explore the barriers to turning breakthroughs in the fascinating and sometimes bizarre world of quantum mechanics into the next generation of computers and communications.”

The committee added that it would be accepting submissions of evidence through April 28, addressing any or all of the following topics:

• Recent progress made on quantum technologies and their potential impact on society or the economy, in areas including, but not limited to: critical national infrastructure; national security; health; position, navigation and timing; communications; and engineering.

• The strengths and weaknesses [of the] UK NQTP, and how this has shaped the UK quantum industry.

• What the prospects of the UK’s quantum industry [are,] and how these compare to other nations with strengths in quantum.

• Interventions that are required from Government, industry and academia to drive the commercialization of quantum technologies.

• Whether the vision and actions set out in the Government’s new national quantum strategy are fit for purpose.

Mad City Labs, Inc.Universe Kogaku America Inc.First Light ImagingLaCroix Precision OpticsBerkeley Nucleonics CorporationHÜBNER PhotonicsCHROMA TECHNOLOGY CORP.
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