Quantum computers will be much more powerful than current ‘classical’ computers and able to perform tasks that are practically impossible today.
Unlocking this power will catalyse the development of new technologies that will deliver benefits for all of society, ranging from the design of ultra-high energy storage batteries for electric vehicles to improving and speeding up the process of drug discovery and identifying the most efficient use of resources to help us become an environmentally-sustainable society.
The centre is being established with a £93 million investment by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) to bring together academia, business and government to address key challenges to quantum computing, such as its scalability.
Working closely with industry and the research community, the centre will provide access to quantum computers as they come on stream and catalyse the growth of the UK’s quantum computing industry, leading to new jobs, skills and knowledge creation.
Science Minister Amanda Solloway launched the NQCC at the Quantum Computing Summit during London Tech Week.
A further update was provided on progress in a number of key areas, including the launch of a roadmap outlining key technologies that will be developed with the ultimate aim of delivering 100+ qubit NISQ-era user platforms – early quantum computers – by 2025. This will help UK businesses and researchers to tap into the potential of this technology to develop a range of applications for quantum computing and fully unlock its capabilities.
Work to prepare the NQCC site on the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) campus at Harwell in Oxfordshire will commence this month. Completion of the building is expected by the end of 2022.
UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser, said: “Quantum computers are extraordinary new tools with the potential to allow us to tackle previously insurmountable challenges, promising benefits for all of society through applications in areas such as drug discovery and traffic optimisation.
“The National Quantum Computing Centre will tackle the key bottlenecks in quantum computing by bringing together experts from across the UK’s outstanding research and innovation system from academia and industry to unlock the potential of this exciting new technology.”
Speaking after the Quantum Summit, Science Minister Amanda Solloway said: “Our ambition is to be the world’s first quantum-ready economy, which could provide UK businesses and industries with billions of pounds worth of opportunities. Therefore, I am delighted that companies across the country will have access to our first commercial quantum computer, to be based in Abingdon.
“This a key part of our plan to build back better using the latest technology, attract the brightest and best talent to the UK and encourage world-leading companies to invest here.”
The NQCC is being created as part of the second phase of the UK’s National Quantum Technologies Programme, a ten-year, £1 billion programme to accelerate the development of quantum technologies, and will be established with a £93 million investment delivered through UKRI’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
The Centre’s leadership team were appointed in February 2020 and tasked with the design of the centre, including its operating model and community engagement, development of the process to determine technology platform priorities and the design of the building.
Despite the challenges to working practices faced during the past few months due to COVID-19, progress has been made against a number of programme priorities, as well as a key milestone stage within the governance and delivery of the centre enabling the centre to formally commence operations as a UK national facility.
Recruitment will shortly begin for key members of the Centre’s technology and support staff, while new branding has been launched as part of a programme of engagement and outreach which will also deliver a strategy for the NQCC.
The technology roadmap will develop four key themes for the NQCC, around prototype demonstrator machines; the development of quantum software, algorithms and applications; mid-term hardware architecture development; and long-term plans for fault-tolerant general-purpose quantum computing. Academic and business groups will be commissioned to test and further develop these themes.
Within the STFC estate the NQCC facility is being established at Harwell campus. Following RIBA 1 and 2 concept and feasibility studies and a technical tendering exercise, Hawkins Brown have been appointed as project architects to develop a RIBA 3 stage facility design and construction specification.
This design programme will be supported by Arcadis providing cost management services, Ramboll UK with civil and structural engineering services and Hoare Lea with mechanical and electrical engineering and Exterior Architecture external environmental design services. CPC Project Services are providing the scheme’s overall project management.
Design for the building is underway and site clearance will commence in September 2020, with expected completion of the building toward the end of 2022.
NQCC Director, Dr Michael Cuthbert said: “I am pleased with the progress made on the formal structures and governance of the centre. The next steps initiating centre recruitment and commissioning technology work packages are very welcome tangible steps as the Centre moves from initialisation and conceptual design to facility construction and operational delivery.”