Michelle Donelan – 2023 Speech at PsiQuantum

The speech made by Michelle Donelan, the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, at Sci-Tech Daresbury on 4 September 2023.

Today is a landmark moment; obviously not just for PSIQuantum or for Daresbury Lab, but also for British science and innovation – which I am very proud to represent.

The state-of-the-art facility that you’re unveiling this afternoon is testament to the towering strengths of the UK’s quantum sector.

The fact that we rank amongst the fifth in the world is quite remarkable really.

And we boast the largest number of quantum startups. More than any of our European counterparts.

So, as you already said, many would define us as a science superpower but we as a government have a goal to make sure that we are judged that way by everybody by 2030.

The work that you’re doing here is really part and parcel of that agenda.

And look, we are home to some of the very brightest and the best minds in quantum engineering and many of them of course are based here at PSIQuantum. And I’ve had the pleasure of discussing with some of you your incredible work this afternoon. Thank you for sparing the time to show me around your facilities.

I’ve learned about your exciting partnership with the Hartree Centre, and helping businesses to seize the opportunities of supercomputing data analytics and AI to go for growth and create more high skilled jobs that the future needs and requires.

Indeed, as a government. We’ve long recognised the tremendous potential of these technologies to truly transform our economy but also our society for the better…

…So, through the National Quantum Computing centre and the SparQ programme, we have been investing big in piloting [quantum’s] use so that British businesses can stay ahead of the curve; and I know that the Hartree Centre is a key ally in this shared vision.

But what especially impressed me today, however, is hearing about the wealth of benefits PSIQuantum’s research really could deliver for the British people in the future.

I think that is the exciting thing that obviously gets you up every morning and gets you to work, but it’s something that I think that the British public are also excited about and it’s something that we need to be collectively talking about more.

Whether it’s of course, uncovering patterns in genetic data, helping our NHS design treatments that are tailor made to individual patients’ makeup…

…Or whether it is in fact simulating complex chemical processes, allowing us to design ever more efficient batteries and helping us to plot a clear achievable path to net zero.

You are at the forefront of this agenda.

Incredible that PSIQuantum – as the largest privately backed quantum computing company in the world – has chosen Britain and, in fact, this area in the North West to locate…

As a person that originates from the North West I can say I’m extremely proud that you’ve chosen this location.

And it is also a resounding vote of confidence in the plan my department set out earlier this year in our national quantum strategy. A bold vision backed by some £2.5 billion pounds in the next 10 years to drive the adoption of quantum technologies throughout our economy…

…to scale up small quantum businesses into big global players…

And, of course, to keep [the UK] at the cutting edge of this technology now and in the future.

Key to this plan is throwing our full support behind dynamic tech clusters – one of which is Daresbury where we stand today.

And as we’ve already heard about, [it boasts] a very prestigious record of three Nobel Prizes.

That is why we have set ourselves a clear target to spend £20 billion pounds per annum in research and development by next year, which is record levels of funding.

And at the same time, we’re increasing this investment outside the greater South East by a third so areas like the Liverpool City Region, like the Warrington facility, and the rest of the North West remain hotbeds for science, innovation and technology in the decades to come.

You and I know that this investment alone, however great, is no guarantee of success.

As you know transformative leaps in technology like quantum are owed in no small part to our collaboration with international research organisations like CERN.

Every year, in fact, almost 1000 UK based researchers from over 50 institutes carry out work in CERN.

And in the past decade alone over 20,000 UK scientific papers have been cited with CERN articles including many of the UK’s most influential physics papers.

I want the UK to remain at the very forefront of this pioneering research and to ensure that we are leading the way when it comes to remarkable discoveries.

As the second largest contributor to CERN, I’m determined that our return on investment is also maximised and that we unlock the full potential of our membership.

And that is why today my department has published a new UK strategy of engagement with CERN…

…One that will let the UK seize the opportunities, maximise these opportunities, and ensure that our membership really can deliver in five key ambitions – research excellence, skills, the UK’s commercial impact, our international leadership and our ability to inspire our communities.

Practically, this means more high impact papers, more highly skilled technicians, engineers, scientists calling Britain their home.

It means British inventors and innovators being the partners of choice for international collaboration, and the UK taking on more positions of international leadership.

It means more of our children and our grandchildren growing up with a real appreciation of science and technology and the profound impact that they can have on our lives.

That is certainly our vision. But we are under no illusion that it is all of you in this room that are making that a reality and a possibility every single day.

Now, in the run up to today’s events, I was of course reading about PSIQuantum’s meteoric rise over the last few years. How it has smashed investment targets, attained unicorn status and become one of the world’s most truly valuable quantum technology companies on the planet.

This has been a tremendous success story. Everybody who has who has been involved in it should be truly proud of themselves.

With the government working with very best for our scientific community, with industry and with true innovators like PSIQuantum, I do believe that we can solve some of those grand challenges that we’ve spoken about today and truly reshape the world together. Thank you.