In late 2019 quantum technologies were on the cusp of a change. Their enormous potential to transform the world and disrupt markets was highly anticipated and well understood, but the transition from laboratory to product had barely begun.
As the UK quantum technology community gathered in London for the National Quantum Technologies Programme (NQTP) showcase: an exhibition of the UK’s capability in quantum technology. None of us knew that it would be nearly two years before we would get back together again.
Fast forward to autumn 2021 and the world (and quantum technology) has changed beyond recognition. As we emerge from the era of lockdowns (fingers crossed!) we can at last meet face to face again. On 28 September in Twickenham, the Quantum.Tech leaders’ summit will see 200 people take part in a one-day event. It is a good moment to take stock of what we have achieved in the intervening time.
Changing the pace
In early 2020, as the pandemic hit, the Commercialising Quantum Technologies challenge at UK Research and Innovation launched a round of competitions for business-led projects. With over £70 million given in grants, these projects are now underway and have been part of a seismic shift in the pace of commercialisation.
Quantum products and services, from methane imaging cameras to secure communications channels, are beginning to find their way to market.
Over the next few weeks, the Quantum challenge will announce a further £70 million in funding from Innovate UK for business-led quantum technology projects, following a competition-round in spring 2021. The growth in maturity of the project proposals we have seen over twelve months has been stark and the rise in private investment in the sector reflects this.
Pushing the boundaries
The UK’s existing base of research, know-how, innovation, and startups has been the foundation for this transformation. Small to medium-sized enterprises and talented entrepreneurs continue to emerge, with products and services nearing market at a pace which we could not have imagined even two years ago. Not everything has been locked down!
Quantum technology is no longer a nascent technology being pushed from labs. It is being pulled by entrepreneurs ready to develop and supply the technology to large businesses wanting to be ‘quantum ready’.
The message is clear. The clock is ticking (maybe not quite a quantum one yet) and now is the time to get involved or fall behind.
Top image: Credit: UKRI