TRANSNET investigator joins £9m quantum technology project

TRANSNET investigator Professor George Zervas is leading UCL’s involvement in a new research consortium to develop quantum data centres of the future.

The project, part of the UK’s National Quantum Technologies Programme (NQTP), aims to solve one of the biggest challenges facing the development of quantum computers: How to integrate them with existing computing systems.

A consortium of nine companies and five leading UK universities will research how quantum computing can integrate with data centres that currently underpin and drive the digital economy. 

The group will be led by London-based ORCA Computing and includes partners BT, BP, Riverlane and KETs. Professor George Zervas, from the Optical Networks Group and a co-investigator on the TRANSNET Programme, is leading UCL’s participation in the project.

For the first time ever, this project will develop a quantum computing system that aims to work seamlessly with existing computers not developed specifically for it. Demonstrating this ability is critical if quantum computers are to provide any potential speedup or power increase over what technology is already available.

The research will bring together experts in classical data centres and networking, quantum computing and quantum communications to develop a blueprint for a quantum/classical hybrid data centre and a quantum internet.

The project will centre on ORCA connecting its time-based quantum computer into a BT data centre to make artificial intelligence and machine learning faster. KETs will connect its quantum communications technologies to make communication to, from and between data centres more secure.

Professor George Zervas’ input to the project will be to explore optical network and data centre system architectures while considering communication, and quantum/classical computing fundamental principles to deliver distributed quantum and classical computing. Part of this will involve developing optical switching technologies that are key to prototyping modular large-scale quantum computing systems.

The full consortium is: ORCA Computing, University of Bath, University of Bristol, Imperial College London, University College London, University of Southampton, NCC Operations, Riverlane, BT, BP, PQShield, Digital Catapult, KETS, NCC Group Security Services. The group received £9 million from UK Research and Innovation to fund the work – the largest single grant given to a UK quantum research project.

Richard Murray, CEO of ORCA Computing, said:

"Data centres are central to our lives, but so far no one has looked at how quantum technologies actually impact the technologies already out there. In this project, we will for the first time deploy quantum computers side-by-side and integrated with classical systems. Currently, quantum computing and quantum communications, which focuses on keeping data secure, are being developed in isolation. This is not just counter to the direction of computing towards greater co-ordination and integrated systems, but a severe limitation on quantum use."

Professor George Zervas commented:

"Bringing together industry and academia across ICT and quantum communities is of paramount importance to explore, design and prototype future quantum and classical data centre systems. We are excited to collaborate with ORCA, BT and all the other project partners to co-design, implement and demonstrate optical network technologies, architectures and systems to maximise distributed quantum and classical computing performance."


ORCA Computing  

UKRI article: £50 million in funding for UK quantum industrial projects