Tech & Sourcing @ Morgan Lewis


The UK government published its first National Quantum Strategy (the Strategy) on March 15, setting out £2.5 billion (over $3 billion) in funding quantum research and naming a quantum computing industry as a strategic priority for the United Kingdom. The following day, the science and technology committee of the UK House of Commons (the Committee) announced a new inquiry on turning quantum technologies into commercial products. As quantum-focused startups proliferate, UK policymakers are demonstrating their intent to enable early-mover advantages in the sector.

How is ‘quantum’ different?

Quantum technologies take advantage of phenomena at the atomic scale—including the ability to link particles (entanglement) and for particles to exist in multiple states (superposition)—to create novel ways to process and store information.

For example, superposition enables quantum computing algorithms based upon “qubits,” which represent values which are not restricted to single binary values (as in classic computing), such as 0 or 1, but can represent 0, 1, or a proportion of 0 or 1 simultaneously. Placing this in the context of parallel quantum processing, McKinsey notes, “…when calculating the route distance between 15 different cities, a classical computer would sequentially compute the length of the distance between each city and then total these amounts. In parallel quantum processing, the distance between each city would be calculated simultaneously.”

Quantum technologies are broader than processing capabilities: quantum sensing and imagery can vastly improve the precision of environmental monitoring and simulation; quantum key distribution can create unparalleled encryption protection; quantum clocks may provide much greater accuracy needed for satellite links.

UK National Quantum Strategy

The Strategy is built upon four pillars:

  1. Growing quantum science and engineering skills
  2. Ensuring the United Kingdom’s integral place in the global supply chain for quantum technologies, and a preferred location for investors and global talent
  3. Driving the use of quantum technologies to benefit the economy, society, and national security
  4. Creating a regulatory framework that supports innovation and the ethical use of quantum technologies and protects UK capabilities and national security

The Strategy identifies priority actions under each pillar, which include funding for various research and development initiatives; accelerator programs to increase commercialization of quantum technologies; training and talent programs for both post-graduate and technical skills; commissioning an independent review of infrastructure requirements for the quantum sector; and supporting quantum companies that want to move to the United Kingdom.

The UK government very clearly regards quantum technologies with competitive urgency, stating in the Strategy, “We are in a global race to develop and commercialise [quantum] capabilities. The UK was an early mover, but other countries are accelerating their own efforts.” This mirrors similar objectives in the UK government’s white paper on its AI regulatory framework published two weeks later.

UK Parliament’s New Inquiry

The Committee’s inquiry will focus on how the United Kingdom’s quantum industry compares with other nations with strengths in quantum, such as the United States and China, as well as the implications for national security. The Committee seeks views on the following:

  • Recent progress made on quantum technologies and their potential impact on society or the economy, including on critical national infrastructure, national security, communications, and engineering
  • The impact of the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme
  • The UK quantum industry and how it compares to other leading nations in quantum technology
  • Interventions that are required to drive the commercialization of quantum technologies
  • Whether the UK government’s new national quantum strategy is fit for purpose

The Committee has asked for submissions by April 28, 2023.

How Long Before Quantum Computing Is of Widespread Commercial Application?

According to analysis from McKinsey, quantum computing will become widespread for commercial application in about 10 years. Certain sectors may be more suited to investing in quantum computing capabilities before others; finance is highlighted by various commentators as showing a need for, for example, risk analysis and portfolio optimization.

In the United Kingdom, quantum has been under development for a while, bearing in mind that the UK government has already made available £1 billion in research and development of quantum technologies since 2014 and some quantum startups trace their roots to the early 2000s. Noting the impact that ChatGPT has had on accelerating adoption of AI across sectors, it may take a similar revolutionary milestone for businesses to consider more seriously procuring quantum technologies.