1 October 2020
As UCLQ enters its seventh year, we take an opportunity to look back at some major events in our history and peer into what the future might hold.
Casting your mind back to 2012, the quantum landscape was very different: John Preskill had just coined the term “quantum supremacy”, and it would be a further two years before Google even hired the team of physicists from the University of California, Santa Barbara, who would later help Google demonstrate quantum supremacy.
However, at this time in the UK, research into quantum technologies was punching above its weight, with a well-funded and developed research environment. The UK government, after discussions with UCLQ academics and others, recognised the commercial potential of new quantum technologies and the ability for the UK to become a leader in the coming quantum revolution. In the 2013 Autumn Statement, the government announced £270 million to set up the National Quantum Technologies Programme to enable the training of the quantum workforce and development of the technologies from the lab to the market place.
Since 2013 the UK has, through a mix of government and industry funding, committed more than £1 billion over ten years to a coordinated programme in quantum technology. This was the environment that brought UCLQ into existence
Quantum research at UCL was spread out across six faculties and there was no central location to learn about the quantum research, training or innovation activities happening at UCL. Establishing both a new institute and a centre for doctoral training has brought together a diverse range of researchers working in research topics like: quantum communication, quantum computation, and quantum metrology and sensing. The then UCL President and Provost, Prof Michael Arthur, said: “The UCL Quantum Science & Technology Institute will push the boundaries of our understanding of quantum science and use these insights to deliver disruptive future technologies. Meeting these challenges requires a major interdisciplinary effort, such as that brought together in UCLQ.”
UCLQ’s Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Delivering Quantum Technologies brings together a team of almost forty academic experts with key players from commerce and government and a network of international partner institutes to train those research leaders. Read more about the success of our CDT.
To support the research activities and develop resources for innovation at UCLQ, £12m of EPSRC funding was awarded to support two programmes – ‘Quantum Engineering with Solid-state Technologies’ (QUES2T) and a new skills hub in Quantum Systems Engineering. Professor John Morton, Director of UCLQ and lead for the QUES2T project, said: “Locating a major research and development activity for quantum technologies in London, at the heart of Europe’s fastest growing technology cluster, offers very exciting opportunities.”
QUES2T develops practical quantum technologies using solid-state components such as silicon chips, superconducting circuits, and diamond-based devices. It is a partnership led by UCLQ, with the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Cardiff as academic partners alongside 13 commercial partners.
Through the InQuBATE skills hub, UCLQ is able to offer postdoctoral prize fellowships, a programme of industry secondments and innovation prize funds to seed commercialisation of quantum technology research.
Prof Andrew Fisher, Director of London Centre for Nanotechnology and lead for the Skills Hub, said: “It is particularly exciting to be able to offer these new training opportunities at a time of such rapid development in the quantum technologies field. I’m delighted we can now offer engineers at a range of different career stages the chance to turn some of today’s most exciting science into tomorrow’s technologies.”
To improve the access and diversify of candidates training to become the quantum leads of the future, UCLQ designed a week-long residential summer school with no fees and free accommodation. Read more about the 2020 summer school.
UCLQ joined forces with Google to launch a five-year £5.5m Prosperity Partnership, which aims to harness the revolutionary power of quantum computers for applications in modelling and simulation. The first US-external Google research partnership will study and develop quantum software for modelling and simulation, and its work helps develop the foundation of a quantum software industry in the UK.
The initiative, funded by EPSRC, is a collaboration between the UCLQ, Google Quantum AI Lab and the University of Bristol Quantum Information Institute. It includes UK start-up companies GTN and PhaseCraft, and is also supported by the Alan Turing Institute, the National Physics Laboratory, the Flatiron Institute and Siemens Healthineers.
2019 and beyond
UCLQ spin-outs are among 38 projects that will benefit from more than £70 million government investment in quantum technologies. Alongside research projects with UCLQ industrial partners, three UCLQ spin-outs are benefiting from the UK government’s funding. You can find out more about these spin-outs.
Having produced over 2000 academic research papers, 7 start-ups and spin-outs, and 16 graduates of the CDT programme (with another 49 in training), UCLQ is achieving its aims to bring together the quantum science community, help collaborative research, and provide a platform for public, users, and policy makers. Progress in quantum technologies is at an exciting stage. Applications that harness the non-classical features of quantum mechanics to perform tasks hard or impossible with conventional technologies are now reaching beyond the laboratory into industrial development. We are developing new ways to form links between industry and academia through our research partnerships, hackathons and training. Through its research and industrial partnerships UCLQ aims to be at the forefront, whether in delivering new technologies to market via start-ups or through research by the quantum sector leaders of the future whom we train.
12 May 2014: UCL inaugurates a new Quantum Science and Technology Institute (UCLQ).
29 September 2014: UCLQ welcomes the first students to a new Centre for Doctoral Training in Delivering Quantum Technologies at UCL. The funding was awarded through the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).
1 March 2016: UCLQ awarded £25m for quantum technologies research and training. Including funding for QUES2T and InQuBATE.
4-8 September 2017: UCLQ hosts its first summer school for undergraduates, introducing students from around the world to quantum technologies.
5 June 2018: UCLQ academics join others to give statements at UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee inquiry in quantum technologies.
26 November 2018: The Digital Secretary Jeremy Wright MP, officially opened UCLQ’s new quantum laboratories at the UCL’s main campus in Bloomsbury.
12 May 2019: Our doctoral training centre is successfully funded for a second phase until 2028.
17 June 2020: UCLQ spin-outs are among the 38 projects that will benefit from more than £70 million of government investment in quantum technologies.
This article was featured in UCLQ’s 2019/20 annual report.