The UK government has announced in its Autumn Budget that it will be investing a further £235m to support the development and commercialisation of quantum technologies, reasoning that they will bring promising new approaches to solving global problems such as disease and climate change.
Quantum technology is a new field of physics and engineering, which builds upon some of the properties of quantum mechanics and turns them into practical applications. These applications include quantum computing, quantum sensors, quantum cryptography, quantum simulation, quantum metrology and quantum imaging.
Current medical applications of quantum technologies include improving disease screening and treatment, the development of skin patch therapies and more secure health data.
This investment is in addition to the government’s recent £80m extension of the Quantum Technology Hubs, which are already accelerating the transition of quantum technologies into the medical marketplace as part of the National Quantum Technologies Programme. The extra money announced in the Autumn Budget has brought overall funding for the second phase of the UK’s National Quantum Technology Programme to a total of £315m.
One of the UK Quantum Technology Hubs is based at the University of Birmingham, where researchers are using quantum sensors to aid the development of magnetoencephalography, the measurement of magnetic fields generated by the flow of currents through neuronal assemblies in the brain. One of the aims of this innovation is to diagnosis and monitor conditions like attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder. The University of Birmingham also believes that quantum sensors could be the key to fighting dementia.
Earlier this year, quantum technology sensors were also used to create a wearable brain scanner to measure activity while patients move. The brain scanner can be worn like a helmet and was created as part of a five-year Wellcome Trust-funded project with the aim of revolutionising human brain imaging. It was developed by researchers at the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre, the University of Nottingham and the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Neuroimaging, UCL. The researchers hope that the new scanner will improve research and treatment for patients who cannot use traditional fixed MEG scanners, such as young patients with epilepsy and patients with neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease.