As part of two revolutionary quantum computing collaborations with industry partners, Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) facilities - including the Hartree Centre, the National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC) and Scientific Computing Department - have secured funding under UK Research and Innovation's £50 million Commercialising Quantum Technologies.
Quantum computing has the potential to revolutionise computing. Faster than conventional technology allows, the way they harness the properties of quantum mechanics enables them to solve very complex problems that existing computers cannot.
Revolutionising drug discovery
The £4.7 million Quantum Enhanced Computing Platform for Pharmaceutical R&D (QuPharma) project will be led by quantum computing company SEEQC and a consortium of partners including Merck, Riverlane, Oxford Instruments and University of Oxford alongside the National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC), the STFC Hartree Centre and Scientific Computing Department.
The project uses a quantum computer alongside a classical supercomputer to model the properties of drugs. This will speed up drug development by a factor of ten. Currently, supercomputers are used to predict and model the effect of drugs, reducing need for testing. But this is a very difficult task, even for the most powerful supercomputer. Over half of the small number of drugs that reach phase of human trials are unsuccessful in getting approval for commercial use, with all that research effort going to waste.
Dr Michael Cuthbert, Director of the National Quantum Computing Centre, said:
“Pharmaceutical is a significant end-user sector for quantum computing. I am excited to be joining this project and working with our consortium partners to tackle some of the key engineering bottlenecks to the commercial delivery of NISQ applications. As devices are scaled up, NQCC will support the hardware testing and the integration of quantum resources into established classical infrastructure, through colleagues across STFC – from both the Hartree Centre and Scientific Computing Department."
Robust quantum computing platform
The STFC Hartree Centre is also involved in another £5.6million project led by Universal Quantum Ltd, in collaboration with Rolls-Royce, Riverlane, and Imperial College London.
The project team will develop a more robust quantum computing platform that is more accurate and less reliant on cryogenic cooling. Working with Rolls Royce the project will apply the novel computer to key problems in the aerospace industry.
Alison Kennedy, Director of STFC's Hartree Centre, said:
“With a strong track record of industry collaboration in high performance computing and emerging technology, the Hartree Centre is excited to be a partner in these projects to investigate the potential of hybrid classical and quantum computing approaches to solving previously intractable computational fluid dynamics challenges which have the potential to pave the way for early adoption of quantum computing technologies in the aeronautics sector and beyond. We are also delighted to be contributing our expertise in HPC software and workflow development, quantum emulation and molecular discovery to the vitally important work of optimising the drug discovery process in the QuPharma project, where quantum computing has the potential to realise speed-up by a factor of 10."
About the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme:
Started in 2014, the UK's National Quantum Technologies Programme continues to act as a strategic funder and catalyst in the rapidly growing UK Quantum Industry.
The £50 million of funding announced today is part of UKRI's £170 million Commercialising Quantum Technologies challenge, which has already awarded £103 million in grants over the last 3 years. This includes almost £8 million of grants awarded by the challenge earlier in 2021. Businesses supported by the programme have raised over £220m investment since the programme began.
The aim of the Commercialising Quantum Technologies challenge is to encourage private investment and create economic and societal benefits through driving innovation across a range of sectors including automotive, healthcare, infrastructure, telecommunications, cybersecurity and defence.
The UK National Quantum Technologies Programme aims to ensure the successful transition of quantum technologies from laboratory to industry. The programme is delivered by EPSRC, Innovate UK, STFC, BEIS, NPL, GCHQ, Dstl and the KTN.
The NQTP is set to invest £1 billion of public and private sector funds over its ten-year lifetime.