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Government pledges £15m to train next generation of quantum engineers

23 March 2015

The government is committing up to £15 million to train the next generation of quantum engineers who are expected to create innovative new products like 6G smartphones.

Dr Vince Cable

The funding – via the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) – will be used to create a number of quantum technologies ‘skills hubs’ across the UK, which will work in partnership with industry to deliver training and career development programmes for PhD students. The EPSRC will shortly issue a call for proposals.

"From cameras that can see through smoke to cracking down on Internet fraud, quantum technologies are taking innovation to a whole new level and offer an unparalleled opportunity to shape the next generation of high-tech products that will improve our day-to-day lives," says business secretary, Vince Cable (pictured).

"This £15 million investment will ensure we have the flexible, highly-skilled workforce needed to turn these futuristic ideas into a reality."

The National Quantum Technologies Programme is a cross-government programme with activity supported across the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Innovate UK, the National Physical Laboratory, Defence Science Technology Laboratory (Dstl) and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

In November 2014, the programme invested £120 million in a national network of UK university-led quantum hubs. These are led by the universities of Birmingham, Glasgow, Oxford and York and focus on quantum sensing and metrology, quantum sensing and imaging, quantum computing and simulation, and quantum communications, respectively.

These hubs include a further 13 universities and 132 companies and have leveraged over £60 million of additional direct and indirect support alongside government investment.

The EPSRC has also awarded a new £4.8 million programme grant to Imperial College London and King’s College London that will take plasmonics to the next stage, with a focus on real-life applications in chemistry, catalysis, bio-imaging, and optoelectronics. On a more fundamental level the project will explore the behaviour of electrons in the formation of plasmons in metallic nanostructures.

Surface plasmons are waves of electrons that are generated under particular conditions by directing light onto a nanostructured metal surface. The combination of light and electron motion can be used to focus energy into very small spaces, much smaller than the wavelength of light.

The grant is provided by the EPSRC as part of a £70 million package to enhance and support world-leading science equipment and a wide range of research activities at 18 universities across the UK. 

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