Interview: Dr Caroline Clark from QETLabs, the South West’s global training centre for entrepreneurially minded quantum engineers
A joint venture between the University of Bristol and Cranfield University is planning to change how quantum technologies and devices, such as those needed for quantum computing, will be developed and manufactured.
Bristol’s Quantum Technology Enterprise Centre (QTEC) will link academia to business, and the students will not only be able to work at the cutting edge of quantum technology, but they will leave with a business plan, a range of contacts, and knowledge of how to secure the funding needed to grow their business into a Fortune 500 technology company within the next 10 years.
Seeing the potential for the industry, the Quantum Engineering Technology Labs (QETLabs) scheme has been awarded £9 million funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. The money allowed the creation of a centre in the heart of Bristol University, where exceptional candidates can also apply for a fellowship.
“It is through novel training programs operating at successful quantum institutions like Bristol that we will begin to truly bridge current gaps in skills”
The generous Quantum Enterprise Fellowship package offers £50,000 to cover your salary, travel and concept demonstrator development. There is additional support valued at £100,000 available for further benefits including course fees, incubation space, commercial support, technical support, mentoring and coaching from top entrepreneurs, and access to specialist events and seminars.
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The programme is already impressing people in the right circles, Dr Krysta Svore, senior researcher at Microsoft Research says that “It is through novel training programs operating at successful quantum institutions like Bristol that we will begin to truly bridge current gaps in skills and understand how to realise quantum devices.”
TechSPARK was keen to hear more, so we caught up with Dr Caroline Clark, centre manager at QETLabs.
TechSPARK: In a nutshell, who are you and what are you working on?
Caroline Clark: The Quantum Engineering Technology Labs (QETLabs) at Bristol is a global centre for research, development and entrepreneurship in the emerging quantum technology industry. Our focus is on delivering new technologies in the information and communication domain that harness quantum physics for their operation. Spanning the disciplines of physics, electrical engineering, computer science, mathematics and chemistry, QETLabs brings together a number of world-leading quantum research and technology development activities at the University of Bristol.
We will bring together researchers, companies and investors with the facilities and skills essential for incubation of early stage business ideas in the emerging quantum technology industry. Our Quantum Enterprise Fellows will learn a number of core skills in quantum engineering, systems thinking and design as well as entrepreneurship and business skills.
TS: What is your project’s ultimate goal?
CC: QTEC’s goal is to develop the CTOs (Chief Technology Officers) and CEOs (Chief Executive Officers) of future quantum technology businesses through our unique and innovative training programme.
“It will enable us to start creating this burgeoning industry that has the potential to transform our lives, society and the economy”
We aim to enable academics and researchers to take their quantum technology research out of the laboratory and into real-world businesses where it will enable us to start creating this burgeoning industry that has the potential to transform our lives, society and the economy. Building connectivity and networks is a key element of the QTEC programme and in this we will be supported by our academic and industry partners around the world as well as local network partners such as the Local Enterprise Partnership, SETsquared and the Engine Shed.
TS: What progress have you made since the funding was awarded?
CC: Funding for this programme was awarded by the EPSRC in April this year. Since then, we have been developing a comprehensive and intense one year programme for the Fellows, incorporating all of the engineering, science and business elements they will need to succeed. We have also been recruiting the management and delivery team who will make this programme a success.
Applications for Fellowships are now being accepted for the 2016/17 cohort who are due to start the programme in October this year and as part of the process, we are looking for applicants to send us a short three-minute pitch about a potential idea for a quantum or quantum-inspired business.
TS: What have been some surprising outcomes?
CC: First of all, this programme represents a step change from the research and training normally associated with UK Research Councils (a potentially important precedent) and it is a significant addition to the innovation and enterprise momentum already underway at the University of Bristol.
“We have had fantastic support from our industry partners around the world. Researchers and engineers working in IBM, Google, HP and Microsoft have all vocalised their support”
Internationally, this programme is the first of its kind and a result, we have had fantastic support from our industry partners around the world. Researchers and engineers working in IBM, Google, HP and Microsoft have all vocalised their support for our training programme.
TS: Who should apply for the Quantum Enterprise Fellowship programme, and what can we expect to see from them?
CC: We are looking for ambitious, creative, recent PhD graduates or Post-Doctoral Researchers from a wide range of backgrounds including; engineering, physics, computer science and mathematics. Candidates should be passionate, willing to take risks and be able to communicate, lead and work effectively as part of a team. Candidates will have a serious interest in developing a viable business plan for quantum or quantum-inspired technologies and be passionate about working hard to make that a success.
“Quantum engineering will help us develop revolutionary technologies which will alter the way our world works”
TS: What do you think is the most exciting thing quantum engineering will enable to happen?
CC: Quantum engineering will help us develop revolutionary technologies which will alter the way our world works. These include secure communication systems for individuals, corporations and government; precision sensors for environmental monitoring, biomedical applications and security; quantum simulators to design new materials, pharmaceuticals and clean energy devices and quantum computers to tackle challenges in big data and machine learning.
Quantum Photonic Microchip: produces and
manipulates the information carried by two
quantum bits, flying at the speed of light
Without quantum entrepreneurs to move today’s research into the real world quantum technology will stay in the laboratories. Our hope is that our Fellows will enable commercialisation and create fully functioning quantum technologies for the general public within the next few years.
TS: How can people get involved with the centre?
CC: There are a number of different ways people can get involved in QTEC and other programmes within the QETLabs. We are keen to speak to existing entrepreneurs interested in mentoring and coaching our Fellows during their programme. We would also welcome those from industry, SMEs or investors who would like to speak to our Fellows about collaboration or investment opportunities to get in touch.
You heard her! There are many ways to get involved. Applications for Fellowships are available on their website. If you would like to use your knowledge to make this programme a success they are recruiting the management and delivery team.
QETLab’s open day is on Friday 29 July which will be your opportunity to see the facilities, meet the staff and hear more about this revolutionary programme. Check out the event on our calendar and register your place online.