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UK’s International Technology Strategy on Quantum Technologies

By Guest Writer on August 2, 2023

uk technology strategy

The UK cannot seek to be a world leader in all technologies. We will focus our efforts on emerging technologies where the UK has significant existing strength or potential, or where technologies are most disruptive and vital to our security.

The Integrated Review 2023, and the UK S&T Framework identified artificial intelligence (AI), quantum technologies, engineering biology, semiconductors and future telecoms as priority areas of focus for the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and data as a crucial enabler. The ITS framework demonstrates the type of focused action we will pursue and how they apply to technologies at different stages of maturity, from the early stage of quantum technologies, to the more mature applications of AI.

Quantum Technologies Technology Strategy

Quantum technologies (QT) use the principles of quantum mechanics to unlock new technological advances in areas such as sensing, imaging, communications, timing and computing. They have enormous potential to transform global security, economies and societies and underpin solutions to some of our biggest global challenges.

The best known application of QT is quantum computing (QC). QCs are at an early stage of development: realising the full potential of scalable, fault-tolerant computing could be 10 or more years away. But when they come, QCs will create a step-change in computing power, able to solve problems that are impossible using classical machines. For instance, QCs have the potential to defeat cryptographic mechanisms that are used to secure much of today’s communications.

The UK’s ambition is to become a global centre of excellence for QT, shaping the global future of these technologies to harness responsibly the opportunities they can bring. We are home to many world-leading quantum start-ups, through an ecosystem supported since 2014 by the National Quantum Technologies Programme. To drive further development, the UK is growing our international partnerships in quantum, such as through the UK- US Quantum Statement of Intent signed in 2021.

The UK has an opportunity to shape the development and future governance of QT from the outset. International conversations on technical standards are at an early stage within standards development organisations such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association, International Organization for Standardization and International Electrotechnical Commission. We will work closely with industry, academia, civil society and with international partners to ensure UK interests are represented at key standards and wider international bodies.

3 Quantum Technologies Use Cases

The use cases of Quantum Technologies are divided broadly into 3 areas:

  • Quantum Sensing use cases include Medical imaging, New navigation and defence applications, and Safer, cheaper infrastructure and building
  • Quantum Communications use cases include Innovation in information transfer and Increased decryption risk
  • Quantum Computing use cases are further segmented under 3 interdisciplinary fields:
    • Quantum linear algebra for AI & Machine Learning use case includes Increase AI sophistication
    • Quantum optimisation use cases include Portfolio optimisation, Optimised supply chains, Highly efficient manufacturing, and Greener carbon capture
    • Quantum simulation use cases include Vaccine/Drug Development and Revolution in DNA sequencing

UK Principles with Quantum Technologies

  • Open – we will support innovation and the growth of the UK’s quantum sector through trusted international collaboration, and engagement in key international fora to develop pro-innovation governance in line with our democratic values.
  • Responsible – we will advocate for the early identification and consideration of the ethical principles of quantum as the technology matures, including issues at the intersection with other fields such as medicine, recognising that the full range of potential uses and impacts are not yet known.
  • Secure – we will mitigate security threats, including the cryptographic challenges posed by future quantum computing. We will also provide guidance and support for industry and academia to promote secure innovation. We will work with likeminded nations to safeguard intellectual property.
  • Resilient – we will ensure the long-term strength of our quantum sector, working with likeminded nations to safeguard expertise, protect the UK ecosystem from hostile actors and ensure resilient supply chains.

Top Priorities for Quantum Technologies

  • Implement the National Quantum Strategy which builds on the world-leading strengths of the National Quantum Technologies Programme.
  • Collaborate and share expertise with international partners on the opportunities, challenges and key uses of quantum, especially where technologies could help to achieve major societal goals (for example, net zero greenhouse gas emissions).
  • Drive progress in quantum R&D by deepening collaboration with international partners and continuing to participate in leading multilateral research partnerships globally.
  • Lead the global definition of the risks and opportunities of quantum, and work with international partners to develop shared principles for the responsible and secure development and deployment of quantum.

Why Does Quantum Matter to the UK?

Quantum technologies are of the highest geopolitical importance. Those who develop functioning quantum technologies first will have access to capabilities that are impossible to replicate without a similar ability, bestowing huge economic and security advantages. The UK is well placed to emerge as a global leader in the quantum revolution, but we cannot lead alone.

By collaborating with trusted international partners, we can ensure the UK and our allies can benefit from the opportunities which these technologies can bring and mitigate against risks.

A lightly edited synopsis of the UK’s International Technology Strategy on Quantum Technologies

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