EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Quantum Engineering

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Physics

Abstract

Quantum Technologies (QT) are at a pivotal moment with major global efforts underway to translate quantum information science into new products that promise disruptive impact across a wide variety of sectors from communications, imaging, sensing, metrology, simulation, to computation and security. Our world-leading Centre for Doctoral Training in Quantum Engineering will evolve to be a vital component of a thriving quantum UK ecosystem, training not just highly-skilled employees, but the CEOs and CTOs of the future QT companies that will define the field. Due to the excellence of its basic science, and through investment by the national QT programme, the UK has positioned itself at the forefront of global developments. There have been very recent major [billion-dollar] investments world-wide, notably in the US, China and Europe, both from government and leading technology companies. There has also been an explosion in the number of start-up companies in the area, both in the UK and internationally. Thus, competition in this field has increased dramatically. PhD trained experts are being recruited aggressively, by both large and small firms,
signalling a rapidly growing need.

The supply of globally competitive talent is perhaps the biggest challenge for the UK in maintaining its leading position in QT. The new CDT will address this challenge by providing a vital source of highly-trained scientists, engineers and innovators, thus making it possible to anchor an outstanding QT sector here, and therefore ensure that UK QT delivers long-term economic and societal benefits. Recognizing the nature of the skills need is vital: QT opportunities will be at the doctoral or postdoctoral level, largely in start-ups or small interdisciplinary teams in larger organizations. With our partners we have identified the key skills our graduates need, in addition to core technical skills: interdisciplinary teamwork, leadership in large and small groups, collaborative research, an entrepreneurial mind-set, agility of thought across diverse disciplines, and management of complex projects, including systems engineering. These factors show that a new type of graduate training is needed, far from the standard PhD model. A cohort-based approach is essential. In addition to lectures, there will be seminars, labs, research and peer-to-peer learning. There will be interdisciplinary and grand challenge team projects, co-created and co-delivered with industry partners, developing a variety of important team skills. Innovation, leadership and entrepreneurship activities will be embedded from day one. At all times, our programme will maximize the benefits of a cohort-based approach. In the past two years particularly, the QT landscape has transformed, and our proposed programme, with inputs from our partners, has been designed to reflect this. Our training and research programme has evolved and broadened from our highly successful current CDT to include the challenging interplay of noisy quantum hardware and new quantum software, applied to all three QT priorities: communications; computing & simulation; and sensing, imaging & metrology.

Our programme will be founded on Bristol's outstanding activity in quantum information, computation and photonics, together with world-class expertise in science and engineering in areas surrounding this core. In addition, our programme will benefit from close links to Bristol's unique local innovation environment including the visionary Quantum Technology Enterprise Centre, a fellowship programme and Skills Hub run in partnership with Cranfield University's Bettany Centre in the School of Management, as well as internationally recognised incubators/accelerators SetSquared, EngineShed, UnitDX and the recently announced £43m Quantum Technology Innovation Centre. This will all be linked within Bristol's planned £300m Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus, placing the CDT at the centre of a thriving quantum ecosystem.

Planned Impact

Our ambitions for the impact of the Quantum Engineering CDT are simple and clear: our PhD graduates will be the key talent that creates a new, thriving, globally-competitive quantum industry within the UK. In Bristol we will provide an entire ecosystem for innovation in quantum technologies (QT). Our strong and diverse research base includes strengths going from quantum foundations to algorithms, experimental quantum science to quantum hardware. What makes Bristol unique is our strong innovation and entrepreneurship focus that is deeply embedded in the entire culture of the CDT and beyond. This is reflected in our recent successful venture QTEC, the Quantum Technologies Enterprise Centre, and our Quantum Technologies Innovation Centre (QTIC), which are already enabling industry and entrepreneurs to set up their own QT activities in Bristol. This all occurs alongside internationally recognised incubators/accelerators SetSquared, EngineShed, and UnitDX.

At the centre of this ecosystem lies the CDT. We will not just be supplying existing industry with deeply trained talent, but they will become the CEOs and CTOs of new QT companies. We are already well along this path: 7 Bristol PhD students are currently involved in QT start-ups and 3 alumni have founded their own companies. We expect this number to rise significantly when the first CDT cohort graduates next year (2 students have already secured start-up positions). Equally, it is likely that our graduates will be the first quantum engineers to make new innovations in existing classical technology companies - this is an important aspect, as e.g. the existing photonics, aerospace and telecommunications industries will also need QT experts.

The portfolio of talent with which each CDT graduate will be equipped makes them uniquely suited to many roles in this future QT space. They will have a deep knowledge of their subject, having produced world-leading research, but will also understand how to turn basic science into a product. They will have worked with individuals in their cohort with very different skills background, making them invaluable to companies in the future who need these interdisciplinary team skills to bring about quantum innovations in their own companies. Such skills in teamworking, project management, and self-lead innovation are evidenced by the hugely successful Quantum Innovation Lab (QIL). The idea and development of QIL is entirely student-driven: it brings together diverse industrial partners such as Deutsche Bank, Hitachi, and MSquared Lasers, Airbus, BT, and Leonardo - the competition to take part in QIL shows the hunger by national industry for QT in general, and our students' skills and abilities specifically. With this in mind, our Programme has been co-developed with local, UK, and international companies which are presently investing in QT, such as Airbus, BT, Google, Heilbronn, Hitachi, HPE, IDQuantique, Keysight, Microsoft, Oxford Instruments, and Rigetti. The technologies we target should lead to products in the short and medium term, not just the longer term. The first UK-wide fibre-based quantum communication network will likely involve an academic-industrial partnership with our CDT graduates leading the way. Quantum sensing devices are likely to be the product of individual innovators within the CDT and supported by QTIC in the form of spin-outs. Our graduates will be well-positioned to contribute to the advancement of quantum simulation and computing hardware, as developed by e.g. our partners Google, Microsoft and Rigetti. New to the CDT will be enhanced training in quantum software: this is an area where the UK has a strong chance to play a key role. Our CDT graduates will be able to contribute to all aspects of the software stack required for first-generation quantum computers and simulators, the potential impact of which is shown by the current flurry of global activity in this area.

Organisations

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/S023607/1 01/09/2019 29/02/2028
2266128 Studentship EP/S023607/1 23/09/2019 22/09/2023 Anastasios Fasoulakis
2266365 Studentship EP/S023607/1 23/09/2019 22/09/2023 Alexandre Belsley
2266060 Studentship EP/S023607/1 23/09/2019 22/09/2023 Quinn Palmer
2265802 Studentship EP/S023607/1 23/09/2019 22/09/2023 Samuel Mister
2265723 Studentship EP/S023607/1 23/09/2019 21/09/2023 Sahra Ahmed Kulmiya
2265739 Studentship EP/S023607/1 23/09/2019 22/09/2023 Thomas Bell
2265726 Studentship EP/S023607/1 23/09/2019 22/09/2023 Marcus Clark
2258023 Studentship EP/S023607/1 23/09/2019 22/09/2023 Sebastian Currie
2266354 Studentship EP/S023607/1 23/09/2019 22/09/2023 Matthew Stafford
2265776 Studentship EP/S023607/1 23/09/2019 22/09/2023 Ben Jones
2266070 Studentship EP/S023607/1 23/09/2019 22/09/2023 Naomi Solomons