80.A current or imminent skills shortage was identified as an obstacle to the growth of quantum technology activity in the UK by a wide variety of witnesses. For example, Airbus told us that “the UK simply will not have enough engineers trained to meet the future demand for quantum-based solutions”. The University of Sussex told us that “there is a severe skills shortage of qualified quantum engineers”, and that in their opinion, this shortage was “the most crucial challenge” facing the UK quantum sector. Professor John Morton, Director of the Quantum Science and Technology Institute at University College London, qualified that “the lack of skilled people in quantum technologies is currently a key bottleneck not just in the UK but around the world”.
81.The National Quantum Technologies Programme currently supports PhD-level training through three Centres for Doctoral Training focusing on quantum engineering and three Training and Skills Hubs in Quantum Systems Engineering, as well as through the Doctoral Training Partnership funds for PhD studentships at the Quantum Technology Hubs. This has been complemented with PhD funding from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, which has so far supported 46 studentships. The National Programme has additionally invested £16m in a quantum technology fellowship programme, to fund 14 “key researchers” to develop their careers. Professor Morton told us that “the UK can be said to be world leading in training and skills in quantum technologies”, citing industry approval and interest from international competitors who want to learn more about the UK’s training programmes. Indeed, many witnesses emphasised the importance of continuing the different elements of the National Programme’s current training schemes into the second phase. Professor Martin Dawson, Head of the Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics, agreed that “UK universities are very good at training highly qualified people” in quantum science, and that the Centres for Doctoral Training were “aligning themselves to training […] quantum engineers” rather than physicists, which he viewed as “a really crucial thing”. However, along with several other witnesses, he warned that the existing training programmes were not training enough students.
82.Besides the shortage of suitably-qualified personnel, Dr Malcolm, CEO of M Squared, told us that the UK also had a “global disadvantage” in the “mix between commercial and technical skills” available in its workforce:
More education in the management of technological innovation and the commercialisation of it would help a lot. That is the really rare bit—we struggle to find people that can close $20 million business, because we need that detailed mix of skills there.
This tallies with the conclusions of a 2018 report on science, technology, engineering and mathematical (STEM) training in the UK, published by the National Audit Office. This did not focus specifically on quantum technologies, but similarly reported that the UK’s STEM skills problem consisted more of a skills “mismatch” than a simple shortage, with STEM graduates frequently lacking the employability and practical skills needed to enter the workforce.
83.The National Quantum Technologies Programme established three Training and Skills Hubs in Quantum Systems Engineering in recognition of the fact that “quantum engineers are multi-disciplinary individuals who combine practical engineering skills and specialist technical knowledge […] with broader communication skills, commercial awareness and engineering skills”. The Training and Skills Hubs were based at universities and were intended to train quantum engineers through taught courses, research project-based doctoral training and networking activities. They also offer co-working and mobility initiatives, such as secondments, intensive short courses, workshops and mentoring schemes, to integrate training with quantum technologies communities in academia, industry, government and civil society. However, the three Hubs combined train only around 20 students per year.
84.Professor Kai Bongs, Director of the National Hub for Sensors and Metrology, indicated that engaging industry in the design and delivery of training programmes could be beneficial for students and businesses alike:
We have good experiences with secondment programmes between us and Teledyne e2v and between us and M Squared, for instance. Companies have a large appetite to take secondments of students for half a year, which helps make the students aware of the company, and it provides a little prod and the possibility for existing engineers in the company to get informed.
85.In addition to providing students with the softer skills and work experience that they might not otherwise gain, and helping to raise awareness of quantum science at the host company, we heard that industry involvement in training programmes could also ease funding constraints. QuantIC, the national Hub for quantum-enhanced imaging, told us that by introducing industrially-led PhD studentships, they had leveraged £481,000 of industrial funding to match £500,000 of their own investment and fund 12 studentships. However, QET Labs, at the University of Bristol, warned us that the Government could not yet expect industry to fully fund training as “businesses do not yet project significant enough return on investment to support PhDs conducting this fundamental research”.
86.Professor Bongs suggested that there was a strong appetite from industry to support quantum technology training schemes, with universities currently “oversubscribed” with companies wanting to host secondments. Dr Andrew Shields, Quantum Technologies R&D Lead for Toshiba Research Europe Ltd, told us that Toshiba supported “a lot of PhD studentships” through the Centres for Doctoral Training and through secondments, which he said had worked well. However, we heard from other companies working in the field that they supported relatively few studentships. Dr Mark Bentall, Head of Technology Development and Innovation at Airbus Defence and Space, explained that studentship opportunities at Airbus were constrained by the limited amount of work it was undertaking on quantum technologies, and indicated that more opportunities could be created if the National Programme instigated challenge-based technology development projects. Professor Trevor Cross, Chief Technology Officer at Teledyne e2v, advised that more flexible mechanisms for industry engagement could facilitate increased industry support for training programmes:
The Centres for Doctoral Training work best if you get in at the beginning, which means once every five years when the CDTs are refreshed […] That once-every-five-years opportunity is probably not the best for engaging industry, which may not be able to do it one year; but next year, when the boat has left the port, it might be possible.
Another factor that may have contributed to the low number of students supported by some companies was the perceived lack of influence over the content and delivery of training programmes that some companies reported.
87.The Government announced that the £235m allocated for the extension of the National Quantum Technologies Programme would cover:
A new training and skills package, including Centres for Doctoral Training, that will inspire people to consider careers uncovering the opportunities that will come with quantum technologies.
UKRI additionally informed us that quantum technologies were “a priority in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s 2018 call for Centres for Doctoral Training”. Decisions on funding for the continuation of existing Centres for Doctoral Training and the establishment of new ones are due to be taken toward the end of 2018, in time for new student cohorts to start in October 2019.
88.There is significant concern in the quantum technology community that the future development of quantum technologies in the UK could be constrained by the lack of a suitably skilled workforce. This skills shortage is not unique to the UK, and the existing training programmes provided under the National Quantum Technologies Programme are well-regarded, but increasing and improving the training offered must be a priority for the second phase of the National Programme.
89.The Government should continue and expand the National Quantum Technologies Programme’s current training programmes. The new Executive Board, in co-operation with UKRI, should engage with companies working on quantum technologies or closely related fields to help tailor the content of doctoral training programmes to ensure that they provide the balance of skills needed by industry. This will require exposure to commercial practices and requirements, which could be provided through secondments, industry-led projects during the first year of a Centre for Doctoral Training course or industry-proposed and sponsored PhD projects. This should be completed in time for renewal of the Centres for Doctoral Training next year. Furthermore, UKRI should find ways to make the terms on which industry can input into training programmes more flexible, to facilitate increased engagement (for example by enabling input outside of the five-year funding cycles of Centres for Doctoral Training). In exchange, UKRI should seek contributions from industry to fund additional studentships. The Government should be ready to co-invest where industry funding is available.
90.Professor Morton told us that quantum technology “is an area that requires some very advanced training”, and that “the skills required to make a big impact in this area are at the masters or postgraduate level at present”. However, many other witnesses felt those with lower qualification levels were already needed or would be needed soon. Jonathan Flint, President-Elect of the Institute of Physics, argued that:
As near-to-market products are produced, we will need apprentice-level skills in things like electronics and cryogenics—people who do hands-on manufacture and testing of those very complex things.
Professor Ian Walmsley, Director of the Networked Quantum Information Technologies Hub, warned that the Hubs were already “beginning to see […] difficulty in getting the skilled engineers who are needed to take the technology out of the laboratory and build the next stage”, adding that “it is likely that high-level technical and technician skills will also be needed”. He noted that training at these levels was “not properly catered for in the current programme”. The Institute of Physics similarly warned us that:
Training support is needed on a larger scale and at differing entry points [than currently provided by the National Quantum Technologies Programme]—for example, at apprenticeship level. Any new quantum technologies programme must include a strategy for skills development that addresses the future needs of the entire quantum technologies supply chain, and should not be limited to Centres for Doctoral Training.
Professor Walmsley suggested that “there are opportunities to [deliver technical training], by partnering with the skills agency, further education colleges and [other new partners]”.
91.The Government announced reforms to technical education in 2016, with existing apprenticeship ‘frameworks’ being replaced by new, employer-designed ‘standards’ and the introduction of ‘T Levels’, which will provide college-based technical education equivalent to A Levels. T Levels will encompass training in technical and practical skills as well as extended periods of work experience with relevant employers. The Government has created a framework of 15 ‘occupational routes’—groups of occupations that share common knowledge, skills and behaviours—to which every T level and apprenticeship standard will belong. There will be one T level for each of 11 of these routes, including ‘health and science’ and ‘engineering and manufacturing’. The ‘occupational maps’, detailing the skilled occupations that can be achieved through an apprenticeship or T Level in each route, have been published and contain roles relevant to quantum technologies, such as science technicians and design and development technicians. However, many of the corresponding apprenticeship standards are still in development, as is the content of the new T level curricula. Apprenticeship standards are developed by ‘trailblazer’ groups of ten or more employers overseen by the Institute for Apprenticeships, while T level curricula are being developed by T level panels made up of employers, professional bodies and educational providers, convened by the Department for Education. The Department for Education has said that it “will begin engaging much more comprehensively with employers” once the pilot phase for T levels ends in 2019, to “design the detail of qualifications, deliver work placements and ensure the broader system is ready for T level delivery”. However, the National Audit Office has found that “many employers, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, struggle to engage with the design process [for apprenticeships] due to the resources required”. It also noted that:
Some further education providers have reported difficulties accessing capital funding under the new funding system led by Local Enterprise Partnerships, and are therefore disincentivised from taking on the financial risk involved in running costly STEM courses.
92.Training in quantum technologies will be needed for existing members of the UK workforce, as well as those joining it. Dr Mark Bentall, Head of Technology Development and Innovation at Airbus Defence and Space, explained that Airbus had an engineering workforce of 8,500, “very few of whom understand quantum technologies and how they can exploit and use them”. He argued that this was “the workforce we need to bring up to speed”. Professor Trevor Cross, Chief Technology Officer at Teledyne e2v, also raised the need for existing engineers to be trained in quantum technologies:
I am thinking about more continuing professional development and short courses. I would like my already degree-qualified people to be able to dip into shorter courses in universities. I know that those things exist, but today the mechanisms are a bit clunky and difficult when we are trying to get people from industry in to get a bit of exposure. I would like to see more in that area.
Dr Peter Thompson, Chief Executive Officer of the National Physical Laboratory, proposed focused training courses for existing employees as an efficient way of improving awareness of quantum technologies:
We heard many times from industry that we should come to companies and train 100 staff in what quantum technology means for them. That is a very efficient way to do it. If the programme can support that kind of modular training course to get out into companies, it will make a difference very early.
The UCL Quantum Science and Technology Institute agreed that a priority for the next phase of the National Programme should be to “[augment] the population of informed decision-makers in finance and business”. It noted that the identification of applications for quantum devices had so far been “strongly dependent on companies who happen to have informed ‘quantum champions’ among their workforce”, leading it to recommend that “the UK’s training offerings should prioritise the enlargement of this cohort”.
93.It is not clear what the new “training and skills package” announced for the next phase of the National Quantum Technologies programme will cover beyond Centres for Doctoral Training. UKRI told us that it was “seeking to increase skills at all levels, to maintain a broad disciplinary talent base, and work with partners to identify key skills gaps and build capacity across disciplines”, and had therefore “committed to develop a longer-term talent strategy, working closely with [its] partners”.
94.The future workforce required for a successful UK quantum technologies industry will not be composed entirely of PhD-level graduates and above. Although workers at lower qualification levels may not need skills as specifically tailored to quantum technologies as for those with higher qualifications, the growth of a quantum technologies industry will add to the demand for engineering and scientific graduates, technicians and apprentices. In addition to training being required for those entering the workforce, we believe that it is also required for engineers, technicians and others already in the workforce.
95.The second phase of the National Quantum Technologies Programme must ensure that appropriate training is available at undergraduate, technician and apprenticeship level, alongside continued provision at PhD level. It should provide training opportunities for established workers as well as for those entering the workforce, for example through continuing professional development modules or short university-based courses, in a manner that is easy for companies to access. There should also be periodic, sector-specific workshops available to end-users of quantum technologies, with the aim of growing a network of quantum ‘champions’ in sectors where quantum technologies can already start to be applied. These modules, courses and workshops should all be available within three years of the publication of this Report.
96.The new Executive Board should engage with companies to ensure, facilitate and co-ordinate input from quantum technologies enterprises—both large companies and small and medium-sized enterprises—into the Institute for Apprenticeships’ ongoing work on the development of apprenticeship standards and the ‘health and science’ and ‘engineering and manufacturing’ T levels. This endeavour should ensure that these training routes: flag the opportunity of the quantum technologies sector to students; cover the basic skills that enterprises working with quantum and related technologies require; and offer apprenticeships or work placements with enterprises working in the quantum sector. The Executive Board should encourage and support quantum technology enterprises to offer apprenticeship places and work placements.
229 See, for example: Airbus (); Networked Quantum Information Technologies Hub (), para 11.1; University of Sussex (), para 4.2; UCL Quantum Science and Technology Institute (), para 16; Institute of Physics (), para 17; Quantum Technology Hub for Sensors and Metrology (), section 7; Professor Sir Peter Knight (); National Physical Laboratory (), para 52
230 Airbus ()
231 University of Sussex (), paras 4.2 and 5.1
233 National Quantum Technologies Programme, ‘’ (2016); UK Research and Innovation ()
234 National Quantum Technologies Programme, ‘’ (2016)
235 National Quantum Technologies Programme, ‘’ (2016)
237 See, for example: University of Sussex (), paras 4.5–4.6; Professor Sir Peter Knight (); QET Labs, University of Bristol (), para 10; , and
239 ; see also: University of Sussex (), paras 4.2–4.4; National Physical Laboratory (), para 52
240 ; Teledyne e2v similarly told us that “the quantum programme needs to become alert” to the fact that the skills it needs to engage “are not wholly academic skills”—Teledyne e2v ()
241 National Audit Office, ‘’ (2018)
242 National Audit Office, ‘’ (2018), paras 10 and 2.13–2.21
243 Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, ‘’ (2015)
244 This figure is based on past student numbers and future spaces available at the three Hubs: Imperial College London, ‘’; University of Bristol Quantum Technology Enterprise Centre, ‘’; and UCL Quantum Science and Technology Institute, ‘’—all accessed 7 November 2018
246 QuantIC (), para 2
247 QET Labs, University of Bristol (), para 12
251 and ; see also Airbus ()
253 For example, see: and
254 ‘’, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport, accessed 6 November 2018
255 UK Research and Innovation ()
256 ‘’, UCL Quantum Science and Technology Institute, accessed 9 November 2018
258 For example, see: , and
262 Institute of Physics (), para 18; Professor Kai Bongs, Director of the Quantum Technology Hub for Sensors and Metrology, similarly told us that “we should look not only at engineers, but at highly skilled technicians. There is more need to provide new training in that area”—
264 Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and Department for Education, ‘’ (2016)
265 Department for Education, ‘’ (2018)
266 Department for Education, ‘’ (2017), pp10–14; Department for Education, ‘’ (2018), p18
267 ‘’, Institute for Apprenticeships, accessed 7 November 2018; Institute for Apprenticeships, ‘’ and ‘’ (2018)
268 Institute for Apprenticeships, ‘’ and ‘’ (2018); Department for Education, ‘’ (2017), p13
269 Institute for Apprenticeships, ‘’ (2017), p ; Department for Education, ‘’ (2017), pp12–14
270 Department for Education, ‘’ (2017), pp17–18
271 National Audit Office, ‘’ (2018), para 3.9
272 National Audit Office, ‘’ (2018), para 3.10
276 UCL Quantum Science and Technology Institute (), Executive Summary and para 5
277 ‘’, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport, accessed 6 November 2018
278 UK Research and Innovation ()
Published: 6 December 2018