Quantum in the UK

Our lives and economies will soon be transformed by quantum technologies as profoundly as they have been by steam, electric traction, radio communications and electronics.

The UK is leading a global race to develop this new quantum era, forging its research strength into market opportunities through a co-ordinated and coherent
National Quantum Technologies Programme (NQTP).

What is the National Quantum Technologies Programme, and why it is needed?

Set up in 2014, the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme (NQTP) is a vibrant, visionary £1 billion partnership between government, academia and industry, aiming to fast-track quantum knowledge from laboratory to wider society and economic impact.

Many countries have adopted its approach of threading together science, innovation and industry as a model for their own quantum programmes. The NQTP believes that developing national capability in quantum technologies is not an option, but a necessity and determinant: whole swathes of life, including security, financial, transport, communications, land use and health, are about to be transformed.

Currently, we are just at the cusp of that extraordinary and exciting future: where computers work out in seconds what currently would take thousands of years; cameras see around corners and through mist; the hidden world is visible in 3D maps; medical imaging gives unprecedented insight into neurological disorders such as dementia; atomic clocks are miniaturised and affordable. All are being developed in the UK, and some are already in early use.

How does the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme work?

The NQTP was set up as a 10 year programme by these government departments and scientific research agencies:

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC)
Innovate UK KTN
Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl)
National Physical Laboratory (NPL)
Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT)
Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)
Ministry of Defence (MoD)
National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC)

As part of the NQTP, Four Quantum Technology Hubs were set up around the UK. Each Quantum Technology Hub has a lead university, with a consortium of support universities around the UK, to specialise in a key area of quantum. Here is a list of the Quantum Technology Hubs - you can visit the websites to find out more:

Quantum Communications Hub
Quantum Computing and Simulation Hub
Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing

The National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC) is also part of NQTP. NQCC is the UK's national lab for quantum computing, and they work with businesses, government and the research community to deliver quantum computing capabilities for the UK.

What's next for quantum in the UK?

In 2023, the UK Government published a National Quantum Strategy, announcing a further ten-year vision and plan for quantum in the UK, committing to spend £2.5 billion to research, innovation, skills and other activities in that period, as well as committing an additional £80 million over the next two years towards key activities.

The ten-year vision is for the UK to be a world leading quantum-enabled economy, building on scientific excellence and creating a thriving quantum sector to ensure that quantum technologies are an integral part of the UK’s digital infrastructure and advanced manufacturing base, driving growth and helping to build a strong and resilient economy and society.


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Want to find out more about quantum in the UK?

The UK National
Quantum Strategy

The UK government has a well developed National Quantum Strategy.  One of five quantum missions announced  in December 2023 is to ensure that by 2035, there will be accessible, UK-based quantum computers capable of running 1 trillion operations and supporting applications that provide benefits well in excess of classical supercomputers across key sectors of the economy.

The UK National Quantum Technologies Programme

Launched in 2014, and backed by the Government’s £2.5bn National Quantum Strategy, the NQTP builds on a decade of experience to enable the UK to be a leading quantum-enabled economy by 2033, with a world leading sector, where quantum technologies are an integral part of the UK’s future digital infrastructure and advanced manufacturing base, driving growth and helping to build a thriving and resilient economy and society.

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

EPSRC are the main funding body for the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme.

EPSRC funds engineering and physical sciences research in the UK. Their diverse portfolio ranges from digital technologies to clean energy, manufacturing to mathematics, advanced materials to chemistry.

Frequently asked questions

Confused about what quantum technologies is all about? These FAQs might answer your question!

Why quantum technologies?

Quantum technologies are not just a development, but a step-change to a healthier, wealthier and globally competitive UK. They represent a key part of the digital backbone needed for future prosperity, security and resilience.

Similar assessments have been made by most developed economies on their own behalf. This has led to widespread government initiatives around the world to develop quantum-enabled products and services in an increasingly competitive race.

It is not enough to be simply ready to receive quantum technologies. Their impact is going to be so profound and so integral to the security, defence and resilience of nations that no reliance can be put on developments in competitor countries being shared or available. It is crucial, therefore, to develop our own capabilities.

What are ‘quantum technologies’?

Quantum technologies are developments based on controlling nature at the molecular level of atoms, photons, electrons and condensed matter. It is the world not explained by Newton’s laws of motion, thermodynamics or Maxwell’s equations of electromagnetism.

Earlier understanding gave us laser and transistors in the twentieth century. Now scientists and engineers are able to increasingly control and exploit what are known as ‘quantum effects’ for the new quantum era. These include:

Superposition: the ability of particles to be in two or more states at once.
Entanglement: the phenomenon that means particles interact even when separated by large distances.
Uncertainty: that it is impossible to measure particle position and momentum at the same time.

The result of this scientific know-how is what is opening the door to a new wave of commercial advances. For example, potentially allowing pharmaceutical companies to identify, screen and simulate new drugs in a fraction of the cost and time currently needed.

Where are new quantum technologies today?

The NQTP is delivering projects to different timelines. Those close to commercial viability include:

A more precise and ground-based atomic clock that will reduce dependence on global navigation satellite systems, which are vulnerable to malicious and accidental disruption. Precise and secure time keeping is crucial to critical infrastructure services, such as energy supply, safe transport links, 5G mobile communications, data networks, health care and electronic financial transactions. It is estimated that the impact on the UK of a 5-day satellite outage would be £5.2 billion.

A new type of wearable brain scanner that allows people to move freely whilst being scanned. This is already now in early real-world use, giving an unprecedented window on brain function and new hope to people suffering from neurological illnesses, such as epilepsy. It also means an option to scan babies and young children for neurological disorders for the first time, allowing for earlier diagnosis.

A revolutionary gravity sensor that detects hidden structures such as pipes, sinkholes and drainage systems accurately, building a 3D map from the density of material around it. This will significantly cut costs and delays for road works, construction and rail repairs. Exploration and national defence capabilities will also be reshaped as hidden structures and nature can be revealed.

A quantum gas imaging camera to monitor for methane gas, the second greatest greenhouse gas contributor to climate change when not burned off or captured by the oil, gas and fracking industries. Detectors use quantum principles to extend accessibility and sensitivity to non-visible wavelengths of infrared and ultraviolet.