Last week, I gave evidence at the Science, Innovation and Technology Committee on the topic of Commercialising Quantum Technologies with fellow witnesses Dominic O'Brien (University of Oxford), Ian Walmsley (Imperial College London), Gerald Mullally (Oxford Quantum Circuits) and Carmen Palacios-Berraquero (Nu Quantum).
I highlighted how the UK has strengths across the quantum computing stack and that there is now an emerging maturity in the quantum sector, creating a vibrant and friendly ecosystem - also explaining how the UK does not need to build everything and, instead, should focus on a small number of things to lead on.
Quantum error correction is one of those things - and there was a clear focus on addressing errors and why developing a QEC Stack in the UK is fundamentally important, not just to unlock useful quantum computing but to drive innovation, growth, and allied investment in the UK.
The ROI for the government as an early customer in quantum is significant. The UK is in a prime position to develop a sovereign capability in quantum computing - but we must act now.
The committee also asked what governments can do to accelerate the impact of their investments in quantum computing. My answer was simple. Buy stuff. Now.
As each witness told the committee, if quantum computing start-ups must wait five years for bigger systems to emerge or government procurement processes to run their course, we won’t survive.
A successful public-private partnership model, which delivers economic, social and security returns, requires predictable government investment in early and subsequent generations of quantum technology. Without this we can’t unlock private capital to step forward and invest at the post Series A and B level.
Fortunately, that’s exactly what’s happening with government testbeds. This week, the UK’s National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC) announced the global winners of its UK programme to build a whole bunch of smallish quantum computers that it can test out at its new lab facilities.
Silicon Valley itself emerged from a similar approach. Investment by NASA and US government research agencies seeded the development of integrated chip technologies that in turn snowballed into the Silicon Valley led global boom in computing.
No country should try to build everything to unlock useful quantum computing. The five experts testifying to the committee gave the same advice on how to maximise ROI from the National Quantum strategy from now to 2035: focus on a small number of things where the UK can lead – like quantum error correction - and don’t delay.
All in all, it was an engaging and positive conversation. The questions raised by the committee were insightful and demonstrated how seriously the UK Government is taking its commitment to quantum computing. I look forward to more conversations like this.
You can watch the full hearing here.