The government of the United Kingdom has confirmed that it will make £20 million (US$28.1 million) in “pioneer funding” available to support R&D on three to five “prototype quantum-enabled devices” that could find a place in future sensor technology, navigation systems and other areas.

The £20 million investment is part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, a broad U.K. government effort to spur technology transfer from basic research to applications, to “put the U.K. at the forefront of the industries of the future.” The Challenge Fund is organized around four so-called Grand Challenges: growing the artificial-intelligence- and data-driven economy; clean growth; the future of mobility; and an aging society.

Pioneer funding such as the recently announced quantum allocation aims at establishing whether additional, more significant funding in the future will help U.K. industry to secure an advantage in selected technologies, according to a U.K. government press release. “The Pioneer Challenge will develop our industrial base, integrated with U.K. research,” 2004 OSA President Peter Knight, Interim Challenge Director, noted in the release. “The rise of quantum technologies will have a huge impact on all our lives.”

From microgravity to single-pixel imaging

The U.K. release cited a number of example quantum technologies as case studies for innovation projects. These include the use of cold, laser-trapped atoms in space as part of microgravity sensor systems, for accurate monitoring of polar ice and ocean currents; single-pixel imaging and sensors; and quantum gravity sensors to locate underground utility installations without having to excavate.

According to the release, the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund constitutes “the greatest single increase in government research and development funding in almost forty years,” and will “play a central role in achieving the government’s commitment to raising the U.K.’s public and private spend on research and development to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.”