Commercial Feasibility for Sub-Shot Noise Quantum Technology Sensing and Imaging

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Electrical and Electronic Engineering


Quantum mechanics declares that correctly harnessed quantum states of light offer a paradigm shift in the capabilities of imaging and sensing. Examples include reduction of measurement noise that can enable faster measurements and reduce tissue damage, and so-called "quantum ghost imaging" where objects are observed at one colour of light whilst only having to detect another wavelengths that are cheaper and more practical to work with.

To deliver success ahead of other competitive initiatives in countries that are also investing heavily in quantum technologies, our nation requires intensely focused effort in the precise and detailed identification of real applications. This will provide a showcase of truly applied quantum technology to the world. Our goal is to do just this for quantum light sources (QLS) and mitigate the risk that the UK achievements in quantum imaging and quantum sensing do not realise in economic terms. We will use our focused effort in quantifying a real market need in order to tailor the technology into a usable and beneficial product.

As part of the UK national quantum technologies programme, UofB in the quantum enhanced imaging hub QUANTIC have successfully demonstrated instances of a quantum light source (QLS) used imaging and sensing with measurement noise suppressed to below what is achievable with current state of the art techniques. This is enormously exciting as it has profound implications for imaging applications and has the potential to be an innovative, UK-first, QT-based commercial imaging product. However, key questions arise: (i) to exactly what sectors can QLS bring the biggest impact? And (ii) exactly what performance metrics and characteristics must these QLS have to be realistically useful and economically viable? This project addresses the scope of the call by identifying the most viable potential market opportunities for QLS, together with the challenges, both technical and commercial, for future road-mapping. Partner Unitive Design & Analysis Ltd will lead this market-focused project to identify real-world problems and engage with leading, early adopter candidates. For example, either current state of the art imaging products are limited by the statistical nature of 'classical' light emission, or users currently accept photon shot noise as inevitable - either way, precision in data is lost. This project will reveal clear commercial opportunities to form the basis for a subsequent prototype project based on end user requirements and to their specifications. UofB brings world-leading quantum optics expertise to survey and analyse the technology and gain understanding of potential customer, supply chain and user requirements. Most importantly, UofB will identify feasibility of identified requirements and identify the very best way to match the customer requirements with the best candidate technology.

Planned Impact

Because of the need for precisely identifying markets for quantum technology and because of the tremendous potential of quantum technology to be a disruptive technology, this project is timely and represents added value in terms of anticipated impact. We plan for the involvement of UofB in the project to result in the following examples of impact:

Economic impact: Our project will be instrumental in placing the UK at the first to market a quantum imaging product that addresses real world challenges, giving significant advantage to the existing UK biotechnology and medical technology sector and the UK photonics and instrumentation manufacture industry. This project will also provide the crucial verification of the commercial potential of quantum photonic sources, and begin the return on the significant funding devoted to quantum technologies, culminating with the UK National Quantum Technologies programme, whose objective is to develop devices and prototypes ready to be implemented by the wider industry. This project will also be able provide experience to future efforts to identify markets for the broader quantum technologies areas, thereby helping to create a healthy new high technology sector.

Social Impacts impact: Commercialising QT will have a positive impact on UK jobs both in industry and in research. By identifying market pull for QLS specification, we will provide a route to even more efficient development of a viable technology which will reduce overall cost of final products. This will impact on resulting services and products used by society that will be based on QLS, for example drug discovery and healthcare applications.

Skills development: We plan multiple avenues for skills development. Immediately the project will enable knowledge transfer among all personnel involved, including consulted potential end users. In the long term, commercial ready and practical QLS will result in increased capability of end-users and dissemination of associated technical skills for manufacture and maintained of QLS.

Regional Impact: a success in industry for QLS will potentially generate clusters of quantum SMEs in regions close to expertise.

Long term impact: Enhanced capability in live cell imaging underpins the UK's Life Sciences priorities. The biomedical technology industry is one of the most important in the UK technology sector and is highly dependent on research and development for continuous innovation. Quantum technologies will have a significant role in supporting and helping the sector to remain competitive, and our project is designed to accelerate this process by identifying now market needs, potential for market growth and market worth.


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Description The primary outcome of the project is a detailed report that can be broadly summarised as delivering:
- identifying further detector development as a key and necessary element of the value proposition for a future positioning of sub-shot-noise photon pair light source.
- a more thorough understanding of the need to 'translate' the language of physics, and more specifically that of quantum optics and information theory, to a language which is more easily communicated to industry in order to accurately identify true end user needs.
- a future direction for further development of academic research.
- a view of the most appropriate markets for future commercial exploitation of this technology, and some idea of the sizing and models of these markets.
Exploitation Route The recommendations in the report provide a pathway to guide development to address these needs. One element of this pathway is to implement a programme in partnership with industry to develop cutting-edge manufacturing technologies to address scale-up challenges and drive up productivity. UDA and the University of Bristol welcome any interest from researchers or industry regarding future developments of the sub-shot-noise photon pair light source, and are open to sharing large parts of the full report under a non-disclosure agreement.
Sectors Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description Innovate UK project consortium 
Organisation Unitive Design and Analysis, Ltd.
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution - Performed primary research interviews. - Engaged with potential future collaborators and partners. - Identified and analysed applications for correlated-photon sources in the biotechnology and medical technology sectors. - Contributed to the analysis and modelling contained in the full report. - Co-authored the final report.
Collaborator Contribution - Performed primary research interviews. - Engaged with potential future partners and end users. - Contributed to identifying and analysing applications for correlated-photon sources in the biotechnology and medical technology sectors. - Lead the writing of the final report. - Lead the modelling and potential product requirements analysis contained in the final report.
Impact - Identified and analysed applications for correlated-photon sources in the biotechnology and medical technology sectors. - Engaged with potential collaborators, partners and end users. - Analysed potential future product requirements. - Prepared the full report containing modelling, technical analysis and promising applications for quantum light sources (confidential). - Published a short summary briefly describing what is contained in the full report.
Start Year 2017
Description Primary research interviews 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Interviews with academic research leaders and their staff (research associates, lecturers, professors etc.), and industrial experts from the life sciences sector. The goal was to investigate the potential applications of correlated-photon sources in the biotechnology and medical technology sectors. Interviews were conducted either by phone or face to face. The obtained information was used to identify the most promising industrial applications. In addition, it provided a basis for investigating the requirements and specifications of potential solutions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018