UCL Quantum Science and Technology Institute


From the director: A year in two states

1 October 2020

Professor John Morton reviews the year and details the contents of the 2019/20 annual report.

John Morton in UCLQ Lab

This has been a year of two states, half online and half offline. In September 2019, UCLQ had just hosted its third quantum tech summer school welcoming students from across the world to spend a week learning from industry and academic experts, and exploring the work going on in our labs. However, come September 2020, the ongoing pandemic meant that our summer school was adapted and moved online. Find out how we still inspired the next generation of computer scientists, engineers, and physicists to explore the rapidly developing field of quantum technologies online. Our summer school is just one example of the year we have had, a year of adaption and success.

Our students, researchers, and staff have faced the many challenges of the pandemic, adapting their lives and work in a very short time: we have skeleton teams working safely in labs to ensure experimental work can continue, and in many cases, we have implemented remote access and control of experiments; our group meetings and coffee breaks have moved online keeping us connected; and our diaries have filled with seminars and talks from across the world keeping us updated with the breakthroughs in research and industry.

However, this can only ever be a light version of the connection we have offline. Humans are social in nature and have evolved to work in teams and close communities, so to cope with the restrictions of a pandemic we need to make extra effort and take the time to look after our wellbeing and the health of those we love. To learn how UCLQ researchers and students helped contribute to covid-19 research and have adjusted to a remote way of working, look to Test, Test, and Test.

Situated in central London the UCL Quantum Science and Technology Institute brings together a rich cross disciplinary community in quantum science and technology, providing a forum for new collaborative research as well as a platform to engage the public, users and policy makers. Over six years. the institute has grown to unite over 150 researchers and 120 students from six departments at UCL and now works with over 20 industrial partners, to form an unrivalled breadth of expertise in the sector. UCLQ delivers world-class research that probes and harnesses the quantum laws of nature to develop new technologies for the benefit of society and the economy. You can read about a selection of our recent research highlights, and explore UCLQ’s journey from its beginning in 2013 to now.

2019 was the year that quantum computing broke through to the mainstream after Google’s announcement on quantum ‘supremacy’, coinciding well our new Prosperity Partnership in Quantum Software that provide access for our researchers to test new algorithms on Google’s unique quantum hardware. While, much attention continues to be focused on landmark goals such quantum supremacy in quantum computing, UCLQ continues to take a broad view of quantum technologies landscape and ask how these advances will develop into technologies with far-reaching impact. As part of the UK’s £1 billion National Quantum Technologies Programme, UCLQ continues to play a significant role in developing the field with university and industrial partners across the globe and plays a key role in helping spin-out and start-up new quantum companies. Read Rhys Lewis’s of NPL insight article ‘Confidence in quantum' to learn more about how NPL and UCL are helping the UK shape up to be the world’s first quantum-ready economy.

Here at UCLQ, we see the training and development of students, business leaders, and the public as essential to achieving our shared quantum future. If this report inspires you to learn more as a student or a learner on our continuing professional development courses, to partner with our researchers, or to get involved with our innovation activities, I would encourage you to contact us. On behalf of UCLQ, I wish you the best for the year ahead and look forward to welcoming you to our community online or offline.

Professor John J. L. Morton is the Director of UCLQ and a professor of nanoelectronics and nanophonotics at the London Centre for Nanotechnology.

This article was featured in UCLQ’s 2019/20 annual report.