Pursuing Sustainable Development Goals with quantum sensor technology

Quantum computer. Image by Getty Images

The University of Strathclyde has joined an international network which has been established to use quantum technology in tackling global challenges, as set out in the UN Development Sustainable Goals (SDGs).

The International Network for Sensor and Timing Applications in Quantum Technologies (INSTA-QT), which has received £500,000 in EPSRC funding, has partnered with scientists in 12 countries, including Angola, Germany and Zimbabwe, to establish Global Virtual Workshops, which will each be specific to the global challenges of: no poverty; zero hunger; good health and wellbeing; climate action; clean water and sanitation and sustainable cities and communities.

All of the participating centres in the project, which is led at the University of Birmingham, will work together to take a strategic approach in linking problem areas to carefully considered solutions, with the advantage of collaborating in a collectively large number of experts across a wide geographical breadth.

A team of five researchers from Strathclyde’s Department of Physics and Institute of Photonics will be participating in INSTA-QT. Their role will focus on the development of core laser technology for quantum sensors, with a major activity in building quantum magnetometers for magnetoencephalography and geophysical surveying. Magnetoencephalography is a ground-breaking non-invasive technique for brain imaging, which is used in the diagnosis of neurological conditions, such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease, and for fundamental research in brain connectivity.

Dr Paul Griffin, Senior Lecturer in Physics, is Strathclyde’s lead on the project. He said: “Quantum sensors have huge potential to transform society and to have real impact on the lives of people across the world. INSTA-QT is the first concerted effort to build a network of cross-disciplinary research to address this challenge.

“Strathclyde, as an international centre for excellence in Quantum Technologies, is delighted to have a key role.”

Since the establishment of the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme in 2014, significant progress has been made in developing quantum sensor technology to accelerate productivity across the UK’s sectors, but this project marks the first time scientists will be working across the globe with policy experts and cross-disciplinary researchers. INSTA-QT will not only focus on improving societal problems across the world with quantum technologies but will also contribute to an urgently-needed growth in quantum skills and expertise in the UK.

The project will focus on virtual and in person workshops for networking opportunities between the UK researchers and the global project partners to identify the needs and synergistic opportunities. The workshops will be hosted by partners across the consortium, to ensure discussions and perspectives are varied.

Strathclyde is the only academic institution that has been a partner in all four EPSRC funded Quantum Technology Hubs in both phases of funding, in: Sensing and Timing; Quantum Enhanced Imaging; Quantum Computing and Simulation, and Quantum Communications Technologies.

Quantum Technology Cluster is embedded in the Glasgow City Innovation District, an initiative driven by Strathclyde along with Glasgow City Council, Scottish Enterprise, Entrepreneurial Scotland and Glasgow Chamber of Commerce. It is envisaged as a global place for quantum industrialisation, attracting companies to co-locate, accelerate growth, improve productivity and access world-class research technology and talent at Strathclyde.

Strathclyde is a signatory to the SDGs, which the UN has set to pursue justice, peace, good health, responsible use of resources and the eradication of poverty and hunger. The University was ranked joint 32nd in the world and first in Scotland in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2021, which measure how more than 1,100 global higher education institutions are working towards the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.