NQIT Researchers Win 3 Grants in Latest Innovate UK Awards

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Three new collaborations involving NQIT researchers and new NQIT spin-out companies have won nearly £2m from Innovate UK as part of their latest round of funding for the commercialisation of quantum technologies.

The three new projects will explore exciting new applications of quantum technologies:

  • “Nanoparticle and chemical sensors using optical microcavities”
  • “Q-DOS light: quantum key distribution for drones with optimal size, weight and power”
  • “Quantum enhanced sensing of trace compounds in sealed containers”

Nanoparticles Sensors

This new project will support the commercialisation of advanced sensors for detecting and analysing chemicals and nanoparticles, made possible using miniature optical resonators developed for quantum communications and computing. The project will be led by a new spin-out company, Oxford HighQ, in collaboration with Oxford University, and supported by Malvern Instruments, market leaders in nanoparticle analysis.

High performance sensors that can measure and analyse chemicals and nanoscale particles in fluids are required for a range of applications, including blood tests, screening for allergens and contaminants in food, developing new medicines for cancer treatment, and measuring air quality in buildings and vehicles.

This Innovate UK project, led by Professor Jason Smith, who leads NQIT’s solid state qubits work package, will develop the first prototype for a nanoparticle sensor product, based on innovative “quantum” resonators, which will offer a step change in performance compared to existing devices.

The spin-out company, Oxford HighQ, is being set up to develop the sensors and to market resonator components to the quantum technologies and photonics industries. Further news about this new company will be announced later in the year.

Securing Drone Data

A consortium of Airbus, KETS, ID Quantique, the University of Bristol and University of Oxford will look at the security of data transmitted between unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and the ground.

The applications of UAVs have been limited in part by the inability to securely communicate sensitive data back to the ground. This project will address this problem by delivering a low-weight, high-speed free-space optical communication system that uses novel, integrated, quantum devices in order to meet challenging Size, Weight and Power (SWaP) requirements for UAVs.

NQIT’s involvement is through Professor Dominic O’Brien, Co-Director for Systems Engineering and leader of our work package on Capabilities and Support.

Quantum Enhanced Sensing of Trace Compounds in Sealed Containers

Startup VeriVin and University of Oxford will explore the applications of quantum-enhanced sensing techniques to investigate the chemical decomposition of complex liquids in sealed containers.

VeriVin are partnering with Professor Axel Kuhn, who leads NQIT’s work on Atom-Photon Interfaces. Together, they plan to use this feasibility study project to develop a method and eventually a stand-alone device that is capable of generating a molecular fingerprint of beverages, such as wine and beer, without opening the bottle. The anticipated technique is a priori non-invasive and is expected to be sensitive at the single-molecule level.

Commercialisation of Quantum Technologies

This competition, co-funded by Innovate UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), provides £14 million to UK businesses and researchers for ground-breaking quantum technologies that are emerging from science.

Paul Mason, Director - Emerging and Enabling Technologies, Innovate UK said:

“The world is on the brink of a second quantum revolution, which will bring quantum sensors, cameras, communications and computers out of the lab and into the hands of companies and consumers. This competition brings the total grant offered to companies to up to £28 million since 2014, funding 55 individual companies and leveraging £15 million of private investment. Bearing in mind that industrial activities were more or less zero when the UK quantum programme started back in 2013, this is an incredible achievement that sees no signs of slowing down.”


Oxford HighQ Ltd is currently pre-spin out and is seeking private investment – please contact contact@oxfordhighq.com for more information.

Find out more about VeriVin on their website.

Please contact NQIT’s User Engagement Team about collaborating with us on future projects

Oxford HighQ Team
The new project will secure drone data using innovative quantum devices
Collaboration with VeriVin will authenticate wine using quantum-enhanced sensors without opening the bottle