On 6 November 2020, Britain launched its largest industry-led quantum computing project, DISCOVERY, looking to address technology barriers to commercial quantum computing. Led by UK Research and Innovation, the project is part-funded by the UK National Quantum Technology Programme who are set to make a £1B investment over its lifetime.
The UK National Quantum Technology Programme has allowed researchers from academia, national labs and industry to work together to accelerate fundamental quantum technology research. One of the earliest quantum programmes of its kind, it allowed the UK to take an early lead globally and is well respected internationally.
Prototype quantum computers exist today, but the holy grail for quantum technologists is creating a commercially scalable quantum computer that can compute indefinitely without errors. Quantum computers rely on very powerful, but very fragile quantum ‘bits’ to represent data (read more in our blogs Quantum computing: Why qubits have consequences for IP and Noisy quantum computing: overcoming quantum decoherence). External disturbances like light or heat can quickly destroy them, and so careful engineering is needed to manage this. Fundamentally, it’s an engineering problem.
The partnerships that the DISCOVERY project will foster will not only be key to solving this problem, but should help build a robust national quantum ecosystem in the UK between academia, national labs and industry.
Once reached, commercial quantum computers could speed up scientific discovery in ways that normal computers just can’t manage. From designing new green technology, such as batteries and materials, to better medicines or more secure telecommunications, the potential benefits are huge.
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