God Save the Quantum: Britain’s five ambitious quantum missions

The UK wants to achieve a superposition in quantum technologies, unlocking more computing power for developing new drugs and treatments, materials, navigation without satellites, precise sensors, and other critical infrastructure. Britain's Tory government has just announced five missions on how it will achieve them.

The UK’s five quantum missions are an addition to the country’s National Quantum Strategy, which is supposed to turn the UK into a global leader in quantum science and engineering.

These missions will direct investments and the government’s efforts.

The first quest describes building quantum computers capable of running one trillion operations before a single logical error occurs. Today’s best achievement is just a few hundred error-free quantum operations, according to the paper.

This achievement would enable calculations that are not practically possible on traditional supercomputers and could transform healthcare, finance, defense, energy, manufacturing, and other sectors.

With such an infrastructure, the UK would deploy the world’s most advanced quantum network, the future of quantum internet. That’s mission 2.

“At the end of the mission, the UK will have the capability to send quantum information from the local to the global scale and to exploit this for the benefit of our economy and society,” the ambition reads.

Three other missions are to be achieved by 2030. The UK’s patients by then will benefit from quantum sensors and solutions for chronic illnesses, early diagnosis and treatment, and longer lives.

“By 2028, quantum-enabled brain scanners will enable precision-guided surgery for children suffering severe neurological disease to improve recovery and outcomes,” the paper reads and promises similar technologies for dementia, breast cancer, early-stage tumors, etc.

To boldly go where no one has gone before, the UK will develop quantum navigation systems and clocks deployed on aircrafts, independent of satellites, and providing next-generation accuracy for resilience.

The last mission is focused on enhancing the capacity and resilience of critical national infrastructure by unlocking mobile and networked quantum sensors for transport, telecoms, energy, and defense. Listed examples include underground sensing capabilities, high-bandwidth radio frequency sensors, resilient optical links, and quantum-enabled gas sensors to accurately see and measure emissions.

In the coming weeks, the UK government will work with industry, academia, and investors to define the programs to deliver each mission, further detailing core activities and milestones that are necessary for investment, advancement, development, and demonstration of new tech.

“The ultimate goal is to advance the UK’s thriving – though currently nascent – quantum industry, laying the foundations for future benefits to be continuously unlocked in the decades to come,” the paper states.

Britain’s government has invested £1 billion in quantum research and development since 2014 and plans to invest £2.5 billion in quantum over the next ten years.

Investments would multiply by many factors in benefits across the world, calculated to reach “$450-$850 billion in the next fifteen to thirty years.”

Among other objectives, by 2033, the UK hopes to rake up a 15% share of the global quantum technologies market, a 15% share of global private equity investment, and become a global leader in establishing global standards for quantum.