Quantum compute boffins called up to get national UK centre organised for some NISQy business

Interim managers ready to go. £93m budget locked and loaded. No lets not talk about the size of the US National Quantum Initiative Program

An interim management team for the National Quantum Computing Centre (NQQC) has been named with responsibility to get the centre built and sketch out its priorities.

The project has been funded by UK Research and Innovation to the tune of £93m over five years - a fraction of the funding provided by the US government for the National Quantum Initiative Program.

The scheme is run from four university hubs in Birmingham, Glasgow, Oxford and York although there are 17 universities and 132 companies involved in total. The centre will be built on the Harwell campus, south of Oxford, with a building budget of £30m. The campus already has sufficient electricity capacity and other infrastructure in place.

Dr Michael Cuthbert, quantum lead at Oxford Instruments, has been appointed the interim director of the centre and Ash Vadgama, principal computational scientist at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) – which supplies and maintains Trident nuclear weapons – is named NQCC's deputy director of operations.

Professor Simon Benjamin, quantum technologies prof at the University of Oxford, is deputy director of research and Dr Simon Plant, innovation lead for quantum tech at Innovate UK – the operating name of the Technology Strategy Board, which falls under the Department for Business – is deputy director of innovation.

Benjamin said: "The UK has long been a world leader in quantum computing science.

"There's now an international race to take the science out of the lab and realise practical technologies. I believe the National Quantum Computing Centre can give the UK the edge it needs to turn scientific excellence into a vibrant ecosystem involving academia, government, organisations, industry and startups."

Dr Simon Plant said the centre would help speed up development of relevant hardware and software to support the growth of a quantum industry and wider end user community in the UK.

The centre aims to support UK research into quantum computing and funnel academic studies into the creation and development of a UK-based quantum computing industry.

The team will oversee design of the centre and its building, its operating model - even what equipment to purchase - and look at how NCCQ engages with the community as well working out its technology platform priorities. They'll need to get cracking because the centre is meant to be up and running by 2021.

The next objective, once the centre is built, is developing a Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum (NISQ) machine by 2025. Caltech's John Preskill described NISQ devices, here, as smaller, fault-prone devices that are "useful tools for exploring many-body quantum physics," adding that "the 100-qubit quantum computer will not change the world right away – we should regard it as a significant step toward the more powerful [and accurate] quantum technologies of the future." ®

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