Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Quantum optics and information

Understanding and control of the behaviour and interactions of light and matter in terms of quantum mechanics in optical and atomic systems, and the fundamental science of generation, use and manipulation of quantum information.

Partners involved:
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

The scope and what we're doing

Theory and experiments to understand and control the behaviour and interactions of light and matter in terms of quantum mechanics. The ability to manipulate and use quantum information within these and other systems enables the performance of tasks that would be unachievable in a classical context.

This research area includes:

  • quantum information processing
  • quantum metrology
  • quantum cryptography
  • quantum optical systems
  • cavity quantum electrodynamics
  • quantum optomechanics
  • quantum thermodynamics
  • quantum state characterisation.

There is strong crossover with the Quantum devices, components and systems research area.

The UK has world-leading capability in this area and we will focus on project-based research that delivers cutting-edge science and supports current research leaders. We will encourage risk and ambition, to ensure that previous investment in the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme (UKNQTP) does not adversely affect the more fundamental, blue-skies research that must be sustained to underpin future innovation.

In particular, we will encourage collaborative, ambitious projects which foster emergent areas. Skills and knowledge transfer within the discipline and also with other disciplines should be driven through greater mobility of early career researchers between disciplines and research groups, and through shared training between this research area and complementary areas in Engineering, Information and communication technologies (ICT) and technology transfer disciplines.

Large EPSRC investments should be aligned to deliver underpinning science feeding into the UKNQTP, or promote crossover with other fundamental and applications-based disciplines. Interactions between existing groups, and between these and the UKNQTP, will maximise use of the additional capital and skills made available, accelerate new science arising from engineering advances, and allow swifter realisation of technological applications.

We will work with the community to ensure engagement with the UKNQTP, small and medium-sized enterprises, emergent quantum technologies start-ups and multinationals. Contributions to original technologies not currently being accelerated to market should be a priority in this context and the community should look for technology transfer opportunities in anticipated Innovate UK, public sector and international investments in this area.

We will monitor the balance of researchers and training in this research area’s portfolio to ensure current and future quantum technology investments do not draw all future leaders away from fundamental science. Capital expenditure should be strategic to ensure maximum use and value from existing infrastructure.

Why we're doing it

Following sustained investment in this research area, the UK is recognised as world-leading in quantum research. Visibility of our leading researchers on the world stage is high and many critical-mass investments interface with other world-leaders, domestically and abroad.

Experimental and application-based research is internationally competitive and strongest where it interfaces with the theory community. Strategic investment in the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme (UKNQTP) has recognised the opportunities this presents.

Quantum optics and information is a key underpinning research area for the UKNQTP and will continue to provide new science for future disruptive technologies. Innovate UK and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have recognised it as a key enabler for future business innovation, and industry engagement is high for both multinationals and a growing number of small and medium-sized enterprises.

International activity, including a flagship European programme, Horizon 2020 activities, and other investments in quantum technologies, make it important for the UK to preserve its head start in the underlying science to support growth opportunities from future quantum technologies.

This research area is directly relevant to cybersecurity, defence and future communications infrastructure, illustrating why it is recognised by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) as a priority area for future research.

The UK community is very broad, with world-leading critical-mass activities and many nascent, smaller-scale activities. Both are driven by significant university, public and industry investment in creating centres, institutes and innovation clusters, mostly positioned towards technology applications.

This has been further bolstered by quantum technology, industry and EPSRC investment, which has increased training, capital expenditure and early-career development, leading to a vibrant, well-connected, well-resourced community that self-organises.

Research leaders are highly visible and well-supported. They drive the community to address broader research challenges, advocate for their discipline and form large, ambitious, connected research programmes.

There is significant research crossover with these research areas:

View evidence sources used to inform our research strategies.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships. Find out more about research area connections and funding for Quantum optics and information.

Find previously funded projects on Grants on the Web.

Last updated: 27 July 2023

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