Quantum optics and information

Theory and experiments to understand and control the behaviour and interactions of light and matter in terms of quantum mechanics. The ability to manipulate and use quantum information within these, and other, systems enables the performance of tasks that would be unachievable in a classical context. This research area includes quantum information processing, quantum metrology, quantum cryptography, quantum optical systems, cavity quantum electrodynamics, quantum optomechanics, quantum thermodynamics and quantum state characterisation. There is strong crossover with the Quantum Devices, Components and Systems research area.

The UK has world-leading capability in this area and we will focus on project-based research that delivers cutting-edge science and supports current research leaders. We will encourage risk and ambition, to ensure that previous investment in the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme (UKNQTP) does not adversely affect the more fundamental, blue-skies research that must be sustained to underpin future innovation. In particular:

  • We will encourage collaborative, ambitious projects which foster emergent areas. Skills and knowledge transfer within the discipline and also with other disciplines should be driven through greater mobility of early-career researchers between disciplines and research groups, and through shared training between this research area and complementary areas in engineering, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and technology transfer disciplines
  • Large EPSRC investments should be aligned to deliver underpinning science feeding into the UKNQTP or promote crossover with other fundamental and applications-based disciplines. Interactions between existing groups and between these and the UKNQTP will maximise use of the additional capital and skills made available, accelerate new science arising from engineering advances and allow swifter realisation of technological applications.
  • We will work with the community to ensure engagement with the UKNQTP, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), emergent quantum technologies start-ups and multinationals. Contributions to original technologies not currently being accelerated to market should be a priority in this context and the community should look for technology transfer opportunities in anticipated Innovate UK, public sector and international investments in this area.

We will monitor the balance of researchers and training in this research area's portfolio to ensure current and future quantum technology investments do not draw all future leaders away from fundamental science. Capital expenditure should be strategic to ensure maximum use and value from existing infrastructure.


Following sustained investment in this research area, the UK is recognised as world-leading in quantum research. (Evidence source 1) Visibility of our leading researchers on the world stage is high and many critical-mass investments interface with other world-leaders, domestically and abroad. Experimental and application-based research is internationally competitive and strongest where it interfaces with the theory community; strategic investment in the UKNQTP has recognised the opportunities this presents. (Evidence source 2)

Quantum Optics and Information is a key underpinning research area for the UKNQTP and will continue to provide new science for future disruptive technologies (Evidence source 3,4). Innovate UK and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have recognised it as a key enabler for future business innovation, and industry engagement is high for both multinationals and a growing number of SMEs (Evidence source 6,7,8).

International activity, including a flagship European programme, Horizon 2020 activities and other investments in quantum technologies, make it important for the UK to preserve its head start in the underlying science to support growth opportunities from future quantum technologies (Evidence source 3,7,9,10). This research area is directly relevant to cyber-security, defence and future communications infrastructure, illustrating why it is recognised by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) as a priority area for future research.

The UK community is very broad, with world-leading critical-mass activities and many nascent, smaller-scale activities. Both are driven by significant university, public and industry investment in creating centres, institutes and innovation clusters, mostly positioned towards technology applications. This has been further bolstered by quantum technology, industry and EPSRC investment, which has increased training, capital expenditure and early-career development, leading to a vibrant, well-connected, well-resourced community that self-organises. Research leaders are highly visible and well-supported; they drive the community to address broader research challenges, advocate for their discipline and form large, ambitious, connected research programmes.  There is significant research crossover with the research areas of Quantum Devices, Components and Systems, Cold Atoms and Molecules, Light-Matter Interaction, Condensed Matter - Electronic Structure and Photonic Materials.

This area could contribute strongly to the Connected and Resilient Nation Outcomes, specifically where there are interfaces with ICT and with biological, chemical and materials science applications. The following Ambitions are especially relevant:

P1: Introduce the next generation of innovative and disruptive technologies

This research area underpins and enhances quantum technologies; fundamental research in quantum information will be required to realise the full opportunities within the UKNQTP. 

C1: Enable a competitive, data-driven economy

Quantum networks and communications will enhance and accelerate optical and electronic communication, while quantum computing could radically enhance Information Technologies. Quantum sensors will provide a new paradigm for information recovery and use, while use of quantum information may alter how we interact, use and design software.

C4: Ensure a safe and trusted cyber society

Quantum key distribution and quantum cryptography will offer fundamentally unbreakable codes and communications, while enhanced quantum metrology is already being used in financial markets to safeguard financial transactions.

R2: Ensure a reliable infrastructure which underpins the UK economy

Quantum infrastructure will require altered telecommunications and optical devices, stemming from and underpinned by quantum optics research, while qubits could provide reliable low-energy electronics.

R3: Develop better solutions to acute threats: cyber, defence, financial and health

Unbreakable quantum communications and quantum-enhanced metrology and scanning for defence applications are already being realised. Additional technologies will require better understanding of the fundamental systems.

  1. Government Office for Science, The Quantum Age: technological opportunities (PDF) (2016).
  2. UKNQTP, National Strategy for Quantum Technologies: A New Era for the UK (PDF), (2015).
  3. European Commission, Quantum Technologies: Implications for European Policy (PDF), (2016).
  4. European Commission, Quantum Technologies: Opportunities for European Industry (PDF), (2015).
  5. Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, Innovation Report 2014: Innovation, Research and Growth (PDF), (2014).
  6. Intellectual Property Office, Eight Great Technologies: Quantum Technologies - A Patent Overview (PDF), (2014).
  7. Ministerie van Economische Zaken, Global Developments Quantum Technologies (PDF), (2015).
  8. Photonics21, A Photonics Private Public Partnership in Horizon 2020 (PDF), (2014).
  9. European Commission, Scientific Support to Policy Making: Quantum Technologies for Computing, Communications, Metrology and Sensing (PDF), (2013).
  10. National Materials and Manufacturing Board, Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences and National Research Council, Optics and Photonics: Essential Technologies for Our Nation, (2013).

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships.

EPSRC Support by Research Area in Quantum Optics and Information (GoW)
Search EPSRC's research and training grants.

Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: Emma Roworth
Organisation: EPSRC
Telephone: 01793 413032