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March 1, 2024

Report claims ‘pro-innovation regulation’ will lift UK’s quantum potential

A new report claims that ‘pro-innovation regulation’ could catalyse quantum potential in the UK

By Lauren Hurrell

A new report proposes a regulatory approach to safeguard quantum development and position the UK as a leader in the field. The Regulatory Horizons Council (RHC) believes the pro-innovation emphasis will catalyse safe and effective advancement of the technology, while positioning the UK as a world leader in quantum technologies and spurring further global investment. The report, ‘Regulating Quantum Technology Applications’, which was published in February and commissioned as part of the UK’s National Quantum Strategy, provides fundamental guidance and insights for policymakers, regulators and industry personnel to safely and effectively advance groundbreaking quantum technological developments with confidence. The recommendations involve crosscutting challenges and lessons learned from artificial intelligence (AI), close inspection of technological readiness and timing, as well as abiding by responsible innovation values, and formulating a regulatory pathway that factors in existing regulations intersecting with potential future regulation, as the market for quantum technology expands and regular training is set and implemented.

quantum
The RHC claims the report on a ‘pro-innovation’ regulatory approach will encourage further investment and competition in the field. (Photo by Bartlomiej K. Wroblewski)

The Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, Andrew Griffith, sees the report and “its recommendations to take a pro-innovation approach to regulating quantum technology” as a positive step as “its use in our economy grows.” His view on the potential of quantum is optimistic, as the advanced technology “holds immense promise, with the potential to revolutionise disease screening, advance quantum computing, and ultimately transform our lives and boost the UK economy.”

Building on the UK’s National Quantum Strategy

The RHC, an independent committee sponsored by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), claims the approach will spur greater global investment in the technology, driving its development forward. The RHC’s role is to provide governing bodies with impartial, expert advice on regulation of technological innovation. The RHC is now undertaking further work to identify priorities in regulating emerging technologies. The National Quantum Strategy, published in March 2023, is committing $2.5 billion on developing quantum technologies in the UK over the ten years and aims to generate an additional £1 billion of private investment into the programme. The strategy covers quantum technology development across quantum computing, imaging, sensors, timing and communications, and outlines how the UK can develop the hardware and software and build out the supply chains. Part of that strategy involves a key action of the UK’s aim to build an international regulatory framework for ethical reasons as well as protecting national security, which this report answers to.

Opportunities to respond to some of society’s greatest challenges are already being unlocked with quantum, and new capabilities continue to be explored, from screening for diseases and new sensing technologies to finding solutions that the traditional computers used today aren’t capable of. This quantum potential is a key focus as one of the government’s five critical technologies, which has been outlined in the UK Science and Technology Framework.

Quantum technology in its infancy

The report acknowledges that quantum technology is in its infancy, and claims that proactive discussions and planning for future regulation will encourage innovation and build a competitive landscape while building confidence in its safe and secure development. The UK government, industry representatives and stakeholders continue to demand greater regulation in the development of advanced technologies in light of ongoing security and safety issues such as with AI, where issues surrounding privacy, unauthorised access, data breaches and misuse of information have populated industry news flow.

As the map for safety regulation begins to take shape, the UK government and quantum company stakeholders claim that soon, the technology will transform the way society approaches several aspects of life in the UK, with the potential to unlock significant benefits and employment opportunities. UKQuantum’s Executive Director, Jonathan Legh-Smith says it is “essential” for the industry to “engage early in developing the regulatory frameworks that will reassure the public and businesses that the inevitable innovation afforded by quantum technologies will have the positive change that we anticipate and intend.”

Read more: Could quantum computing make our energy grid sustainable?

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