Australian quantum startup Q-CTRL has won close to $2 million in funding from the UK government to help its public transport agencies optimise routes and timetables using quantum algorithms, building on work that is already underway with Transport for NSW.
The London arm of the Sydney-based company was awarded the funding as part of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) Quantum Catalyst Fund Competition, announced by UK Science minister Andrew Griffith on Tuesday (ADST time).
It is one of only six companies to share in the £15 million available through the second phase of the competition, which aims to “accelerate use of quantum in government”, leading to greater real-life applications of the technology.
Phase one of the competition involved a three-month feasibility study to explore the application of quantum technology in addressing government challenges, with the six “most promising” concepts selected to receive funding under phase two.
Q-CTRL will use the £1 million (A$1.93 million) funding to develop new “quantum-hardware-optimised algorithmic solvers” built on its performance management software and demonstrate them with the Department of Transport and Network Rail.
The software will seek to “address train scheduling optimisation for both large-scale rail networks and detailed station routing” to improve transit times for commuters and resilience to delays, according to the company.
It will be tested on systems from Oxford Quantum Circuits, and is designed to “be usable by anyone in the Department of Transport or Network Rail’s scheduling team, without needing any expertise in quantum computing”, the company said.
Q-CTRL has a track record in this space, having worked with Transport for NSW since early 2021 to tackle network management and congestion problems on Sydney’s complex public transport network.
It currently holds a $3.1 million, two-year contract with the agency, which is also working with Silicon Quantum Computing. SQC is designing bespoke quantum hardware solutions that could be used to solve optimisation problems.
Q-CTRL’s head of quantum control solutions, Andre Carvalho, said the new funding – which falls in the lower range of the maximum £2.5 million on offer – under phase two “marks a significant step towards applying quantum computing in practical settings”.
“By optimising train schedules with quantum algorithms, we’re not just enhancing efficiency and reducing emissions; we’re paving the way for quantum technologies to solve real-world problems and make a tangible impact on people’s lives.”
Other companies awarded funding through the competition include Cambridge Quantinuum, MoniRail, Cerca Magnetics, Delta g and Phasecraft. Projects span from “quantum-enable brain imaging” to “optimisation problems in energy grids”.
The UK government has also announced £30 million for seven companies – ORCA Computing, Oxford Ionics, Cold Quanta UK, QuEra UK, Rigetti UK, Aegiq and Quantum Motion – to “develop and deliver world-leading quantum computing hardware prototypes”.
The UK’s National Quantum Strategy has committed £2.5 billion to developing quantum technologies in the UK over the next ten years, more than double the current rate of public investment.
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