UK Government Releases Autumn Statement On Quantum Missions
The UK Government announced their National Quantum Strategy in March 2023, which marked a significant leap towards harnessing the transformative potential of quantum technologies. This groundbreaking initiative aims to catalyze technological development by setting targeted, time-bound missions, driving innovation and investment in the public and private sectors.
Now, in a November 22, 2023 statement, the UK Government has updated its National Quantum Strategy to include several Quantum Missions to prioritize specific, ambitious goals, like enhancing quantum sensing for infrastructure monitoring, which is expected to have far-reaching impacts across various sectors, including autonomous systems and drone technologies.
Each mission under this strategy is tailored to suit its specific area, avoiding a one-size-fits-all approach and instead focusing on outcomes that encourage investment and collaboration. To support these missions, the strategy employs a variety of innovation-stimulating approaches, encompassing skills development, acceleration programs, and pro-innovation regulation.
“The missions are bold and contain some genuinely exciting and visionary thinking,” stated Stuart Woods, COO of Quantum Exponential, the UK’s largest quantum-only VC fund and accelerator, in response to this statement. “The plan to implement quantum technology wide scale in the NHS to save money is particularly welcome and our expertise in medical quantum sensing is already world-class – this could greatly accelerate point-of-care diagnostics. There is a concern, however, that with the government’s financial commitment as it stands, it will struggle to translate visionary thinking to practical, implementable action. Based on the US’s 2022 CHIPS Act, adequately funding these missions could cost £25bn; the National Quantum Strategy Missions statement instead makes no financial commitment. While it’s encouraging to see a commitment from the government across the spectrum of quantum technologies, it is simply not practical for the UK to strive for ‘world-leading’ status in such a range of deep technologies with a £2.5bn, inadequately defined national quantum strategy.
The UK government plans to collaborate with industry, academia, and investors to define programs for each mission in the coming weeks. These programs will outline the necessary activities and milestones to unlock investment, advance science, and demonstrate these technologies in real-world applications. The aim is to foster the growth of the UK’s quantum industry, laying the foundation for long-term benefits.
The strategy outlines several key missions, including developing UK-based quantum computers capable of running 1 trillion operations by 2035, creating the world’s most advanced quantum network by the same year, and integrating quantum sensing-enabled solutions in every NHS Trust by 2030. These ambitious goals are supported by detailed plans and milestones, such as integrating quantum computing into high-performance workflows and the early commercialization of quantum communications.
By setting clear, ambitious missions and collaborating across sectors, the UK Government aims to unlock the immense potential of quantum technologies, positioning itself as a global leader in this cutting-edge field.
Kenna Hughes-Castleberry is the Managing Editor at Inside Quantum Technology and the Science Communicator at JILA (a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder and NIST). Her writing beats include deep tech, quantum computing, and AI. Her work has been featured in Scientific American, Discover Magazine, New Scientist, Ars Technica, and more.