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Quantum leap for UK imaging industry

Quantum leap for UK imaging industry

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Cameras which use just a single pixel to see through smoke, imaging systems which can time light to see around corners and miniature structures to create earthquake warning systems are just some of the quantum technologies set to be brought to market by a new consortium of universities and businesses.

A new Quantum Imaging Hub, led by the University of Glasgow, will receive £29 million in funding over the next five years from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

The hub brings together the Universities of Glasgow, Bristol, Edinburgh, Heriot-Watt, Oxford and Strathclyde with more than 30 industry partners.

Prof Miles Padgett of the University of Glasgow, the hub's lead academic, said: “The Hub's vision is to work in partnership with industry to translate our world-leading discovery science into revolutionary imaging systems that will benefit the UK economy across commercial, scientific and security sectors.”

One University of Glasgow-led project uses cheap, simple single-pixel sensors to build sophisticated ultraviolet or infrared video images much more affordably and conveniently than has been possible before. The sensors could be used in applications such as visualising gas leaks, seeing clearly through smoke, or looking under skin for tumours. 

A second project, also led by the University of Glasgow, will use springs ten times thinner than a human hair to image minute changes in gravity fields.

The work will enable a range of applications, including finding landmines, tracking magma moving under volcanoes and monitoring oil reserves to maximise extraction.

A new camera development led by Heriot-Watt University uses highly advanced photon-timing techniques to recognise objects around corners, as well as images through walls or opaque biological tissue.

Professor Steve Beaumont, Director of The Quantum Imaging Hub, said: “We're delighted to have received this support from EPSRC and are thrilled to be partnering with 37 industry collaborators. The Hub also includes a £4 million partnership fund to support industry-led projects and a Scottish Funding Council investment of £3 million to create innovation space where companies can work alongside university researchers to develop industry prototypes.”

Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Angela Constance, said:  “Scotland has a long and exciting history of scientific discovery and I am very pleased to see Glasgow – alongside Edinburgh, Heriot Watt and Strathclyde among others – right at the heart of this hub which could transform how we see the world. The funding contribution from the SFC demonstrates our commitment to supporting research excellence and underlines our worldwide reputation for research and innovation.”

The Quantum Imaging Hub is one of four quantum technology hubs that will be supported by the UK government's £270 million National Quantum Technology Programme announced by the Chancellor, George Osborne, in his Autumn Statement of 2013. The new £120 million network will involve 17 universities and 132 companies.

Greg Clark, Minister of State for Universities, Science and Cities, said: “This exciting new Quantum Hubs network will push the boundaries of knowledge and exploit new technologies, to the benefit of healthcare, communications and security.

“This investment in Quantum technologies has the potential to bring game-changing advantages to future timing, sensing and navigation capabilities that could support multi-billion pound markets in the UK and globally.

Prof Philip Nelson, EPSRC's Chief Executive, said:  “These new Hubs will build on our previous investments in quantum science. They will draw together scientists, engineers and technologists from across the UK who will explore how we can exploit the intriguing properties of the quantum realm. The area offers great promise, and the Hubs will keep the UK at the leading edge of this exciting field.”

The capabilities in Quantum Technologies offer potentially transformative impacts in key areas such as quantum metrology and sensors; quantum simulators; quantum computers and quantum secure communications.

The other hubs are led by the Universities of Birmingham, Oxford and York.

The Quantum Imaging Hub will be co-ordinated from a new quantum technologies facility to be built at the University of Glasgow.

The UK National Quantum Technologies Programme aims to ensure the successful transition of quantum technologies from laboratory to industry.

The programme is delivered by EPSRC, Innovate UK, BIS, NPL, GCHQ, DSTL and the KTN.

 The Quantum Enhanced Imaging Hub's industry partners and collaborators  are:


Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL)

Government Office for Science

Scottish Enterprise

Scottish Funding Council

Andor Technology Ltd

AstraZeneca plc


British Petroleum

 Cascade Technologies Ltd

Chromacity Ltd

Coherent Scotland Ltd

Compound Semiconductor

Tech Gl
e2v technologies plc


GE Healthcare

Helia Photonics

Honeywell Hymatic

Horiba Jobin Yvon IBH Ltd

ID Quantique

Kelvin Nanotechnology Ltd

Lein Applied Diagnostics Ltd

M Squared Lasers Ltd

Malvern Instruments Ltd

Micro-g LaCoste



Quantum Imaging Ltd

Renishaw Plc
Selex-ES Ltd

ST Microelectronics Ltd

Thales Optronics Ltd

Toshiba Medical Visualization

Tullow Oil

UK Astronomy Technology Centre


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