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New Hub to make quantum leap in secure communications

Posted on 26 November 2014

Leading researchers from UK universities and industry have come together in a unique collaboration to exploit fundamental laws of quantum physics for the development of secure communication technologies and services for consumer, commercial and government markets.

Led by the University of York, the project consortium has bid successfully for Government funding to be one of four hubs in the EPSRC’s new £155m National Network of Quantum Technology Hubs announced today by Greg Clark, Minister of State for Universities, Science and Cities.

The new hubs are the centre-piece of the £270 million investment in the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme announced by the Chancellor in the 2013 Autumn Statement.

The £24m five-year project involves eight universities - Bristol, Cambridge, Heriot-Watt, Leeds, Royal Holloway, Sheffield , Strathclyde and York - each of which will contribute world-class expertise and facilities. Private sector partners include BT, the National Physical Laboratory, and Toshiba Research Europe Ltd, all of whom are world leaders in advanced research and development in quantum communications.

The main focus of the Hub will be on secure communications, with emphasis on Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) - one of the first quantum information technologies with market potential. The Hub is aiming for breakthroughs in affordability and integration that will lead to widespread use of the technology. Developments will include chip-scale integration of QKD, and the design and build of prototype hand-held QKD devices.

The Hub will also build the UK’s first Quantum network. This will be based initially on the National Dark Fibre Infrastructure Service (NDFIS), which currently links a number of the Hub’s university partners. The new network will be extended to other sites over time, providing a geographically distributed test-bed outside the lab for developing, testing and demonstrating new quantum technologies and services.

In addition to connecting partners, the Quantum Communications Hub will make the new network available to groups of users as trialists and early adopters.  Users include major commercial and industrial business clusters, as well as groups of consumers. These geographical clusters and groups, in and around Cambridge, Martlesham and Bristol, will be supported by Hub partners local to them – Cambridge Network Ltd, BT and Bristol City Council respectively.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of York, Professor Koen Lamberts said: “Realising the potential of quantum technologies is a significant scientific and engineering challenge York’s expertise in quantum communications across disciplines - including computer science, mathematics and physics – is at the heart of a unique and exceptionally strong partnership that will drive the Hub towards its objective of exploiting excellent research to support UK industry and business.”

The Director of the Quantum Communications Hub, Professor Tim Spiller of the Department of Physics at York, said: “Collaboration is key to the project, and our Hub has brought together a multi-disciplinary team of world-class researchers and industry leaders. We will take from across the partnership the best existing theoretical and experimental research as well as current technology demonstrators. These will underpin the development necessary for prototype products and services that will stimulate the market and the consequent take-up.”

Further information:

  • The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800m a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.
  • For more information about the Department of Physics at the University of York, please visit:
  • For more information about the Department of Mathematics at the University of York, please visit:
  • For more information about the Department of Computer Science at the University of York, please visit:

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