Innovation funding for quantum-enhanced connectivity and data security

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is investing £153 million to commercialise quantum technologies, including quantum-secure solutions to ensure long-term data security against expected advances in computing that will be capable of compromising today’s public-key infrastructure for encryption – the infrastructure we all rely on for secure banking.

The investment is part of the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme that is on track to deliver £1 billion investment over its ten-year life.

The quantum-secure solutions will be applied through software and hardware to ensure sensitive, personal and commercial data is secure now and in the future. There is a real need for data security in all networks from city-scale to global satellite systems. New quantum-secure components are needed to serve government, business, industry and society as a whole.

The Commercialising Quantum Technologies Challenge, part of UKRI’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), has so far awarded a total of £90 million across 42 projects to realise the potential of the new generation of quantum technologies.

Among the projects to receive funding is one made up of several UK quantum start-ups led by BT. The project will demonstrate a technique for sharing encryption ‘keys’ between locations using an un-hackable stream of single photons.

Awarded £5.8m by the Commercialising Quantum Technologies Challenge, BT’s project, a world-first, will deliver a secure link between connected 5G towers, mobile devices and connected cars. The three-year project will combine Quantum Key Distribution over fixed-fibre and free-space networks as well as quantum-enhanced security chips in mobile devices.

Roger McKinlay, Challenge Director, Commercialising Quantum Technologies Challenge said, “We are not far from the day when the security systems we all depend on – be they for banking or medical records - will need to be upgraded to protect us from new computing threats. This project shows the UK to be at the forefront of developing the technology and in a strong position to lead the development of international policies and standards in the future.”

“We are looking to fund the best teams of UK companies and research organisations to help them develop their ideas for cyber-security across the applications of software, algorithms and hardware systems.”

UKRI’s Commercialising Quantum Technologies Challenge supports industry-led innovation projects to remove technology barriers and deliver quantum-enabled product and services, which will deliver a step change in sensing and imaging technologies for industry, transformational quantum computers for materials design and drug discovery, alongside quantum-secure communications systems.

In 2021 the ISCF Commercialising Quantum Technologies challenge is running two funding competitions:

Commercialising Quantum Technologies: Germinator projects round 1

  • Open until 31st March

  • UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £1 million for high-risk, high-return, quantum technology projects with defined commercial outputs.

  • Total eligible costs must not exceed £50,000.

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