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Awards 2024

Groundbreaking support for digital and quantum technology start-ups

New business support programme will enable pioneering digital and quantum technology start-ups to reach their full commercial potential.

Two pioneering business support programmes dedicated to digital and quantum technology start-ups in the UK, have launched with a first call for participants.

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) invites first applications for two business incubation centres (BICs) designed to help start-ups developing advanced digital and quantum technologies.

The two BICs will help early-stage technology companies achieve their full commercial potential, by de-risking the route from proof-of-concept to market for innovative new products and ideas.

Digital Business Incubation Centre (Digital BIC)

In collaboration with the STFC Hartree Centre at Daresbury Laboratory, the Digital BIC will help early-stage companies turn their technology concepts into market reality through the adoption of:

  • artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning
  • data analytics
  • high performance computing

The STFC Hartree Centre is home to some of the UK’s most advanced supercomputing experts and technologies, from AI to quantum science.

Its major programme, the Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation, a collaboration with IBM, is enabling businesses to adopt new digital technologies and explore new markets.

Its location within the Sci-Tech Daresbury campus in the Liverpool City Region, positions start-ups within a vibrant digital cluster, where businesses can bridge the gap between science and market.

Quantum Business Incubation Centre (QuBIC)

In collaboration with the National Quantum Computing Centre (NQCC), at STFC’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, the QuBIC will support businesses developing products or services that rely on quantum technologies.

The first call will focus on businesses that are developing quantum computing technologies, such as:

  • quantum computing hardware
  • quantum computing software
  • quantum computing applications

The NQCC is the UK’s national lab for quantum computing, dedicated to delivering quantum computing capabilities for the UK, in collaboration with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

It sits within the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme, a partnership between academia, industry, and government, to build leading capabilities in quantum technologies and to help bring these to market.

Its location within the Harwell Campus in Oxfordshire, means that start-ups at the QuBIC are positioned within its rapidly growing quantum cluster, where businesses and researchers are working to make quantum technologies scalable.

International technology superpower

In March 2023, the UK government published the UK’s International Technology Strategy, in which it confirmed its aim to establish the UK as an ‘international technology superpower’ by 2030.

It also published its national quantum strategy.

The strategy states the government’s intention for 25% to 33% of all UK businesses to have taken substantial steps to prepare for the arrival of quantum computing by 2023.

Driving growth and prosperity

Paul Vernon, Executive Director of Business and Innovation at STFC, said:

The UK is home to an exciting and growing community of high technology businesses operating at the cutting edge of innovation, and which are constantly finding better ways of doing things to the benefit or economy and society.

STFC is committed to driving advances in advanced digital and quantum technologies, and the launch of the Digital and Quantum BICs mark the start of an incredibly exciting opportunity for technology start-ups in the UK.

Coupled with STFC’s well-established expertise and success in business incubation, the new BICs will create a dynamic environment, where businesses will translate digital and quantum technologies into real-world and commercial impacts.

In alignment with the government’s mission to establish the UK as a technology superpower by 2030, and for more businesses to be preparing for quantum computing by 2033, this represents an exciting opportunity to drive growth and prosperity to benefit the UK.

Outstanding support for technology start-ups

The new Digital BIC and QuBIC programmes will each provide an outstanding support package for technology start-ups.

Successful applicants will receive:

  • up to £50,000 targeted research and development (R&D) funding
  • up to £10,000 R&D vouchers to spend with public sector partners
  • up to 50 hours of business support (including one-to-one coaching, investment readiness, market validation and intellectual property advice)
  • networking and introductions to investors, funders, stakeholders
  • engagement with campus and cluster ecosystems

Tangible business benefits

The launch of the two new BICs builds upon STFC’s strong track record of managing support programmes and facilities for small businesses across its locations nationally.

This includes the successful European Space Agency BIC UK, through which STFC has supported more than 130 start-ups over the last decade, with a 95% survival rate over five years.

Get involved

Find further information about application and eligibility for the Digital BIC and QuBIC.

The deadline for expressions of interest is 14 January 2024.

Applications must be received by 28 January 2024 to be considered.

Full Story: Groundbreaking support for digital and quantum technology start-ups – UKRI