Quantum technologies is a potential billion-dollar industry for the UK.
QuantIC, the University of Glasgow- led quantum imaging hub, is supporting quantum science out of the research lab and into the commercial world. With applications in healthcare, security, energy and defence, QuantIC is giving the UK a head start in the international race to industrialise quantum technologies.
As part of the £270M investment of UK National Technologies Programme (UKNQTP), the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded a national network of four Quantum Technologies Hubs across the UK. QuantIC is the UK Quantum Technology Hub in Quantum Enhanced Imaging. It brings together more than 120 full time researchers from the Universities of Bristol, Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt, Oxford, Strathclyde and Warwick with more than 40 industry partners.
Quantum imaging in Glasgow
The ambitious vision of QuantIC is to pioneer a family of multidimensional cameras operating across a range of wavelengths, time-scales and length-scales, creating a new industrial landscape for imaging systems and their applications in the UK. Since QuantIC was created in December 2014, the hub has built on existing partnerships and industrial collaboration with global industry leaders to shape the research landscape with industry priorities.
Glasgow’s world-leading research in optics, physics and engineering made it the ideal location to house QuantIC and facilitate collaboration between interdisciplinary research teams. Glasgow has internationally recognised leaders in quantum science which has attracted a strong network of industry partners.
QuantIC researchers also have access to the James Watt Nanofabrication Centre (JWNC), a centre of technical expertise and equipment, which has provided technology solutions to over 300 companies in 28 countries.
Collaborating for Competitive Advantage
QuantIC has also built a dedicated £3m Innovation Space above the JWNC to facilitate academic and industrial collaborations by offering free use of optical laboratory and office space to SMEs, start-ups and companies to support the development of the photonics sector. The Hub’s commitment to helping companies innovate is highlighted by their Partnership Resource Fund (PRF) which was set up to bring together industry with academic partners to develop new or enhanced products, services, processes or increase their capability. The PRF is administered through QuantIC’s Market Opportunities Panel (MOP). The MOP comprises technologists from leading manufacturing organisations and representatives from Innovate UK and EPSRC.
Professor Robert Lamb, Airborne & Space systems Division Chief Technical Officer at Leonardo and MOP member said,” Since its inception, QuantIC has benefitted from strong industrial collaboration. It has forged close working relationships with industry across a wide range of applications which have demonstrated the use of quantum technologies in innovative technical solutions to industry-defined problems.” Since 2014 over 32 projects have been approved, bringing the total funded portfolio to £5.8m.
QuantIC also supports skills development through their QuantIC Industrial Studentship Programme. Over £490k has been awarded across 12 industry-led projects including Amazon, M Squared Lasers and QinetiQ – nurturing the next generation of quantum engineers.
“Collaboration is central to everything we do at QuantIC and we are continuing to expand our partnerships with industry. The development of a quantum technology industry in the UK is still in its infancy, however, the work of QuantIC and our partners will help to secure a large share of this emerging global market. Over the next two years, we expect a number of QuantIC products will be taken to market, both in collaboration with industry partners and as new spin-out companies.” Dr Sara Diegoli, Quantum Programme Manager
QuantIC in Action
Looking around corners
Professor Daniele Faccio and his research team are developing camera systems, which enable imaging around a corner. The technology has applications in the automotive, security and defence sectors. Working with Thales, the team have been awarded Centre for Defence Enterprise funding from DSTL and Partnership Resource Funding from QuantIC, to develop a prototype eye safe camera with a stand-off distance of 100m from the corner.
The technology, known as the ‘Hidden Object Tracker’, uses a single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) sensor developed by Professor Robert Henderson at the University of Edinburgh that focuses on tracking motion. This ability to view the unviewable could provide a crucial advantage in many situations, from collision avoidance to search and rescue for the emergency services.
Wee G: Glasgow’s Gravimeter
Professor Giles Hammond and Prof Doug Paul have found a way to adapt a system often found in smartphones to create a cheap and lightweight gravimeter. They have adapted cheap, widely available technology to make a small but powerful gravimeter for the first time.
Gravimeters are highly valuable in fields such as energy, civil engineering, defence and environmental monitoring. Traditional gravimeters have been costly and bulky. The research team’s new device, which they have named "Wee-g", uses the same cheap, mass-producible MEMS which are used in smartphones’ internal accelerometers. Dr Gary Barnes, Chief Scientist at Bridgeporth, who is working with QuantIC on the first deployable prototype of “Wee-g” said, “The potential impact of Wee-g on land gravity survey is enormous; the high sensitivity and low cost of the device could transform the current gravity survey market as we know it”.
The researchers are now working with QuantIC to make the device smaller and are building industrial partnerships to exploit the device commercially.