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Government commits £270m to quantum technology research

06 Dec 2013
Artist's impression of quantum data - Stephanie Simmons (CC BY)

The government has promised an investment of £270m over the next five years to help push the UK’s research in quantum technology.

The commitment was made in the Autumn Statement, which was published on Thursday, after being delivered in the House of Commons by chancellor George Osborne. The full document outlines the scope and rationale for the funding.

“To support scientific research and to utilise cutting-edge breakthroughs for economic growth the government will develop a network of Quantum Technology Centres,” it said.

“The government will provide £270m over five years to fund a programme to support translation of the UK’s world leading quantum research into application and new industries – from quantum computation to secure communication.”

Quantum computing is a cutting-edge area of scientific research that could have huge potential in a number of areas by vastly boosting the processing power of machines, by creating qubits that can exist as both ones and zeroes at the same time.

This means they will be able to make multiple calculations simultaneously. This in turn has the potential to create computers with power far beyond anything seen before, potentially able to crack today's most stringent encryption protocols with ease.

Researchers claimed a world record in quantum computing in November when an experiment saw quantum memory held in a stable state for 39 minutes at room temperature, 100 times longer than ever recorded.

High-tech startups
The government also announced that it will stump up £11m for the creation of a new research centre at the University of Edinburgh that is to be named after Nobel Prize winning scientist Peter Higgs.

The Higgs Centre will provide support for high-tech business startups to ensure they are given the necessary support to become viable, competitive firms.

“The centre will provide cutting-edge academic instrumentation and big data capabilities to support high-tech startups and academic researchers specialising in astronomy and particle physics,” the government said in the Autumn Statement.

Driverless cars
There are also plans for a £10m prize fund for a town or city that becomes a test city for the testing of driverless cars. The government sees this as a new area of potential growth and wants the UK to become a test bed for car manufacturers to trial their technologies.

“[The government will] ensure that UK industry and the wider public benefit from the development of driverless cars including a review, reporting by end 2014, to ensure the legislative and regulatory framework supports the world’s car companies to develop and test driverless cars in the UK,” it said.

Space exploration
Lastly, funding of £80m will be given to those involved in space exploration as part of a new Global Collaborative Space Programme. This is designed to allow firms and researchers operating in this area to work more closely with nations such as China and India to develop new capabilities and technologies.

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Dan Worth

Dan Worth is the news editor for V3 having first joined the site as a reporter in November 2009. He specialises in a raft of areas including fixed and mobile telecoms, data protection, social media and government IT. Before joining V3 Dan covered communications technology, data handling and resilience in the emergency services sector on the BAPCO Journal

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