The EPSRC Quantum Communications Hub

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: Physics

Abstract

Quantum technologies (QT) are new, disruptive information technologies that can outperform their conventional counterparts, in communications, sensing, imaging and computing. The UK has already invested significantly in a national programme for QT, to develop and exploit these technologies, and is now investing further to stimulate new UK industry and generate a supply of appropriately skilled technologists across the range of QT sectors.
All QT exploit the various quantum properties of light or matter in some way. Our work is in the communications sector, and is based on the fundamental effect that measuring or detecting quantum light signals irreversibly disturbs them. This effect is built into Nature, and will not go away even when technologies (quantum or conventional) are improved in the future. The fundamental disturbance of transmitted quantum light signals enables secure communications, as folk intercepting signals when they are not supposed to (so-called eavesdroppers) will always get caught. This means Alice and Bob can use quantum light signals to set up secure shared data, or keys, which they can then use for a range of secure communications and transactions - this is quantum key distribution (QKD). The irreversible disturbance of light can also be used to generate random numbers - another very important ingredient for secure communications, cryptology, simulation and modelling.
In the modern world where communications are so ubiquitous and important, there is increasing demand for new secure methods. Technologies and methods widely used today will be vulnerable to emergent quantum computing technologies, so encrypted information being sent around today which has a long security shelf-life will be at risk in the future. New "quantum safe" methods that are not vulnerable to any future QT have to be developed. So QKD and new mathematical encryption must be made practical and cost effective, and soon.
The grand vision of the Quantum Communications Hub is therefore to pursue quantum communications at all distance scales, to offer a range of applications and services and the potential for integration with existing infrastructure. Very short distance communications require free space connections for flexibility. Examples include between a phone or other handheld device and a terminal, or between numerous devices and a fixed receiver in a room. The Hub will be engineering these "many-to-one" technologies to enhance practicality and real-world operation. Longer distance conventional communications - at city, metropolitan and inter-city scales - already use optical fibres, and quantum communications have to leverage and complement this. The Hub has already established the UK's first quantum network, the UKQN. We will be extending and enhancing the UKQN, adding function and capability, and introducing new QKD technologies - using quantum light analogous to that used in conventional communications, or using entanglement working towards even longer distance fibre communications. The very longest distance communications - intercontinental and across oceans - require satellites. The Hub will therefore work on a new programme developing ground to satellite QKD links.
Commercial QKD technologies for all distance scales will require miniaturisation, for size, weight and power savings, and to enable mass manufacture. The Hub will therefore address key engineering for on-chip operation and integration.
Although widely applicable, key-sharing does not provide a solution for all secure communication scenarios. The Hub will therefore research other new quantum protocols, and the incorporation of QKD into wider security solutions.
Given the changing landscape worldwide, it is becoming increasingly important for the UK to establish national capability, both in quantum communication technologies and their key components such as light sources and detectors. The Hub has assembled an excellent team to deliver this capability.

Planned Impact

As the mission of the Hub is research-led development of quantum communications technologies and their widespread adoption, this should lead to new industries, new applications and new services for new markets. We expect the benefits and therefore the impacts of these to become pervasive, affecting all from government and UK PLC to consumers. To ensure maximum impact of the Hub's work, we will work with a wide range of partners in the public and private sectors, and the different mechanisms they provide for effecting impact. For example:
1. Regular consultation with our Hub Advisory Board, which will include industry leaders with extensive experience in development for market and effective translation of prototype systems into products.
2. Standards, plus active promotion of IP generation, protection and exploitation, directly or through licensing. We will encourage university spin-outs and pre-revenue start-ups. Examples of each from Phase 1 are the highly successful KETS Quantum Security Ltd (commercialisation of chip-based quantum communication technologies), and Arqit (commercialisation of satellite QKD).
3. Direct involvement of industry within the expanding Quantum Technologies (QT) sector to ensure effective translation of research-led systems to market-led products. For example, we will continue working with the main QKD systems manufacturers -ID Quantique and Toshiba - to demonstrate systems and their integration on our UK Quantum Network, for eventual deployment in commercial networks provided by operators including in the UK, BT.
4. Working with industry and commerce to promote commercialisation of technologies stimulated by Hub research ("tech transfer"). For example through demonstration, but also through consortia put together explicitly for the purpose of commercialisation or prototype development - either through private finance, or co-financed with the public sector. The Hub has played a leading part in recent IUK/ISCF competitions to this end, and will continue to do so.
5. Consultation and collaboration with industrial and commercial stakeholders new to QT who are ready to exploit the technology themselves, as well as in a position to lead or promote exploitation in their own sectors. Examples include Energy and Finance where even marginal improvements have disproportionate commercial benefits.
6. Identification of new areas of QT research with potentially very high impact for the UK - for example satellite quantum communications. We have been instrumental in bringing together public stake-holders (e.g. the UK Space Agency, RAL Space, InnovateUK/KTN), relevant UK research strengths (in terrestrial quantum communications) and commercial interests (Arqit, BT). This has resulted in momentum for research-led development of new UK industries with potentially global impact.
7. Promotion, demonstration and engagement, notably on Science/Innovation parks. These provide (often sector-specific) concentrations of industry and commerce, responsive to targeted approaches.
8. Active networking and training to produce skilled scientists through our own support for PhDs / PDRAs; working with the QT CDTs to support turning scientific interest into entrepreneurial endeavour and injection of both into companies and markets.
9. Further expand our extensive public engagement activities and continue the Quantum Ambassadors programme, for impact with the general public and in school education.
Our aim across all fronts will be to maximise impact by the most effective means. Our experience to date indicates that what works best depends upon multiple factors. We will therefore put together bespoke programmes determined by the specifics of the requirement and opportunity, and using the appropriate means selected from a wide array of options--from large events tailored to demonstrate value to focused sessions with leaders of particular industries; from media interviews and articles, to dynamic promotion via social media.

People

ORCID iD

Timothy Spiller (Principal Investigator)
Carlos Antonio Perez Delgado (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3536-2549
John Rarity (Co-Investigator)
Andrew John Vick (Co-Investigator)
Gerald Buller (Co-Investigator)
Luke Russell Wilson (Co-Investigator)
Jon Heffernan (Co-Investigator)
Chris Erven (Co-Investigator)
Julio Hernandez-Castro (Co-Investigator)
Daniel Kuan Oi (Co-Investigator)
Ciara Marie Rafferty (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-3670-366X
Pieter Kok (Co-Investigator)
Ross James Donaldson (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-6450-1889
Adrian Kent (Co-Investigator)
Mark Fox (Co-Investigator)
Richard Penty (Co-Investigator)
Erika Andersson (Co-Investigator)
Douglas J Paul (Co-Investigator)
Reza Nejabati (Co-Investigator)
Maurice Skolnick (Co-Investigator)
Alessandro Fedrizzi (Co-Investigator)
Stefano Pirandola (Co-Investigator)
Roger Colbeck (Co-Investigator)
Dimitra Simeonidou (Co-Investigator)
Dominic Christopher O'Brien (Co-Investigator)
Dondu Sahin (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-8293-352X
Robert Hugh Hadfield (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-8084-4187
Máire O'Neill (Co-Investigator)
Ian Hugh White (Co-Investigator)
Ayesha Khalid (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4815-6966
Ke Guo (Researcher) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-9698-5208
Dmitry Morozov (Researcher) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-4018-4054
Ittoop Vergheese Puthoor (Researcher) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-0649-5924
Stephen Thoms (Researcher)
Luca Mazzarella (Researcher)
Anthony Ross Vaquero-Stainer (Researcher) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-4388-729X
Robert Ian Woodward (Researcher) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-5026-494X
Adrian Wonfor (Researcher Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-2219-7900
Djeylan Vincent Ceylan Aktas (Researcher Co-Investigator)
Rupesh Kumar Parapatil Subramanian (Researcher Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-6813-6401
Damian Pitalua Garcia (Researcher Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7579-578X
Georgios Kanellos (Researcher Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0001-8579-6463
David Lowndes (Researcher Co-Investigator)
Emilio Hugues Salas (Researcher Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3618-1395
Siddarth Koduru Joshi (Researcher Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-4987-457X

Publications

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