In June 2023, UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing researchers from the Universities of Birmingham and Nottingham were featured on BBC’s Newsnight in a special episode hosted by Science and Technology Correspondent Kate Lamble, exploring the Government’s recent £2.5bn investment in quantum technologies across the next decade.
In this episode, Professor Matthew Brookes introduced the quantum-enabled wearable scanner, developed by Hub researchers over a period of time since 2014 and now the focus of a new spin-out company set up in 2019, Cerca. Professor Brookes explained the science of using optically-pumped magnetometers (OPMs) – tiny devices which can detect the faint magnetic fields emanating from the brain, helping to pinpoint locations of electrical activity. Research around brain disorders such as Tourette’s syndrome and Epilepsy is continuously emerging, and this technology will greatly help in planning treatment and also exploring potential causes. The scanner’s wider accessibility was also noted, particularly for children as there is no need to sit still.
Kate Lamble reported that the researchers’ success in setting up a spin-out company to commercialise their medical technology for international research organisations was greatly helped by the launch UK National Quantum Technologies Programme and the formation of the four Hubs in the UK, with a specific focus on academic collaboration with industry. As Professor Brookes mentioned – academia has been ‘driven by the end user – the end goal’ allowing technology to be developed in a way ‘that’s never been done before’.
Professor Brookes also mentioned the need to strengthen the body of quantum research and widen expertise to ensure long-term growth. Professor Kai Bongs, former Principal Investigator at the UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing reinforced this message, stating that ‘we need to get the right companies on board’ and that there has been a notable initiative by industry to create a National Accelerator for Quantum Sensors, which intends to explore innovation synergies in energy, communications and defence, but that the success of such programmes are dependent on the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme.
Watch the full Newsnight episode at this link.