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Quantum algorithms win £1.2m UK Government funding for energy optimisation

The contract is part of Downing Street’s Quantum Catalyst Fund.

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Phasecraft, a Bristol and London-based startup, has initially been given financing from the public purse to explore the application of quantum computing to optimise and overcome prevailing issues with the British energy grid. After successfully establishing this could be done, a second phase of the project will now see the company partner with the Department of Energy and Net Zero and Supergen Energy Networks Hub to prioritise testing solutions. 

This part of the work began on 1st January 2024, and is now one of six individual initiatives progressed to the second stage of the Quantum Catalyst Fund. The overall aim is to catalyse widespread adoption of quantum computing, speeding this up from the current projected timeline — decades — to a matter of years. Theoretical physics and computer science have provided the novel insights behind the research, and the early focus of energy grid efforts will be discovering how new materials and identification of optimisation challenges. This includes those presented in the basic design and use of complex grids. 

‘We’re delighted to have been awarded this new contract to develop quantum algorithms for solving hard optimisation problems relevant to energy grids as part of the UK’s Quantum Catalyst Fund,’ said Ashley Montanaro, Phasecraft’s co-founder and CEO. The grid is coming under increasing pressure as part of the move to Net Zero, and handling this complexity and improving resilience against vulnerabilities is a significant computational challenge. Quantum computing has the potential to solve important problems in a number of sectors, not least the public sector, and we’re glad that the UK Government shares this belief.” 

The UK’s bill for maintaining grid connections — avoiding outages and re-routing supplies during and after extreme weather events — is currently around £1.5million per kilometre of power line. As such, determining the optimal layout and infrastructure usage is imperative to ensure maximum value for money, and the lowest running costs for consumers and taxpayers, at a time when the world’s climate is beginning to change for the more volatile and unpredictable. This is particularly important as demand for electricity is expected to double between now and 2040, while millions of smaller renewable sources will come online during that time, adding further complexity to the network. 

‘As we steer towards an economy benefitting from quantum, this further £45 million in funding underscores our commitment to support bright UK innovators who are pushing boundaries and seizing the potential of this technology to transform our public services. Cutting-edge work on a quantum enabled brain scanner, which will be a beacon of hope for those battling neurological conditions, is just one example,’ said Science Minister, Andrew Griffith MP. ‘The UK is already one global leader in quantum and to maintain that position this government will continue to invest in this transformational technology propelling the UK into a new era of technological prowess and economic growth.’

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Image: Michael Dziedzic

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