Last week, the UK government announced that it is investing £270 million toward quantum computing research as part of the government’s long-term economic plan. The funds will be divided among five quantum technology centers over the next five years.
The initiative was announced as part of Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement, delivered last week in the House of Commons. The network of quantum technology centers is part of the government’s strategy for promoting growth through scientific progress.
The effort supports the creation of new applications and industries – from quantum computation to secure communication.
While conventional computing follows the laws of classical physics, quantum computing adheres to the laws of quantum mechanics, which are radically different. In a quantum computer, the fundamental unit of information is the quantum bit, or qubit. Qubits can exist in the two binary states that we’re all familiar with, but can also exist in a superposition of those two states, allowing for the representation of an unlimited number of states simultaneously. Quantum computing is thus naturally parallel and immensely powerful.
A holy grail for scientists, quantum computing is one those areas that seems to always be on the horizon, never quite within reach. While the pace of progress can seem slow, the last five years have seen substantial movement in the field with several sites boasting quantum processors. NASA and Google jointly own a D-Wave system, which is essentially the world’s first quantum computer, although there’s some debate between scientists over the exact meaning of “quantum computer.”
One thing that experts do agree on is that security protocols, like encryption and decryption, are sure to be a killer app. Governments, naturally, are paying close attention to this technology.
Other supporting measures of the Science and Innovation strategy will:
+ create a £75 million a year fund to improve the research and innovation capacity of Emerging Powers and build valuable research partnerships for the UK
+ establish a Global Collaborative Space Programme. The government will introduce a Global Collaborative Space Programme as an international pillar to our national space policy. A fund of £80 million over five years will enable UK scientists and companies to build stronger links with emerging powers in developing space capabilities and technology
+ ensure that UK industry and the wider public benefit from the development of driverless cars including a review, reporting by end 2014, to ensure the legislative and regulatory framework supports the world’s car companies to develop and test driverless cars in the UK, and a prize fund of £10 million for a town or city to develop as a test site for consumer testing of driverless cars
+ establish the Higgs Centre at Edinburgh University, named in honour of British Nobel laureate Peter Higgs. The centre will provide cutting edge academic instrumentation and big data capabilities to support high tech start ups and academic researchers specialising in astronomy and particle physics
+ invest £5 million during 2014-15 in a large scale electric vehicle-readiness programme for public sector fleets. The programme aims to promote the adoption of ultra low emission vehicles, demonstrating clear leadership by the public sector to encourage future wide-spread acceptance
Source: 2013 Autumn Statement