Quantum Technologies for Fundamental Physics: exciting science awaits!

13 January 2021

Professor Ian Shipsey

Today, UKRI announced the launch of the Quantum Technologies for Fundamental Physics (QTFP) programme that will support scientists using quantum technology to study the universe in new ways in order to determine the nature of dark matter, detect gravitational waves and study the physics of black holes. Professor Ian Shipsey is Head of the Department of Physics at Oxford and has championed the programme since its inception:

‘This cutting-edge interdisciplinary programme brings together EPSRC and STFC scientists from UK universities, national labs and National Quantum Technology Programme (NQTP) Hubs, with international partners to conduct seven ambitious experiments. Just as quantum computing promises to revolutionise traditional computing, technologies such as quantum sensors have the potential to radically change our approach to understanding the universe.

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Global community

‘This idea had been percolating and developing in the global community for some time and in July 2018, I had the opportunity, on behalf of the UK scientific community, to present it to UKRI. As a result, we were awarded an STFC opportunities grant. The grant enabled the particle physics, particle-astrophysics and cosmology communities to come together with the atomic, molecular and optical, condensed-matter and quantum information communities for a series of workshops across the UK. We identified scientific opportunities and experiments that would be suitable for UKRI’s Strategic Priorities funding (SPF) and formed a Quantum Sensing for Fundamental Physics community to develop in more detail the designs, and optimize the performance, of the experiments.

‘A successful outline bid was made to UKRI for SPF funding and this led to the creation of QTFP. A UKRI call for proposals in September 2019, followed by a demanding expert review led to the identification of the seven projects being announced today.

Vision and ambition

‘The programme would not have been possible without a compelling science case, the formation of an enthusiastic expert interdisciplinary community, the existence of UKRI’s world-leading National Quantum Technologies Programme, and the vision of Professors Sir Mark Walport (then Chief Executive, UKRI), Mark Thompson (Executive Chair, STFC), Dame Lynne Gladden (Executive Chair, EPSRC), Sir Peter Knight (Chair, NQTP Strategic Advisory Board) and Ian Walmsley (then Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research, University of Oxford). Exciting science awaits!’

The QTFP programme is delivered by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of UKRI’s Strategic Priorities Fund. QTFP is part of the National Quantum Technologies Programme (NQTP) and will work in collaboration with the NQTP Quantum Hubs.

The QTFP comprises seven projects to date: QSNET; Quantum-enhanced interferometry for New Physics; Quantum Sensors for the Hidden Sector; Determination of Absolute Neutrino Mass using Quantum Technologies; Quantum Simulators for Fundamental Physics; Quantum-enhanced Superfluid Technologies for Dark Matter and Cosmology; and a UK Atom Interferometer Observatory and Network.