Toshiba’s Journey from Research to Commercialisation of Quantum Technologies

2023/11/07 Toshiba Clip Team

  • Toshiba has been committed to the development of quantum technology for over 30 years, consistently breaking new ground within the industry.
  • Over the past few years, Toshiba has shifted from research to commercialisation, partnering with some of the world’s leading telecommunications and financial services companies.
  • To mark this shift to commercialisation, Toshiba has opened a £20 million UK Quantum Technology Centre, a commercial offshoot of its Cambridge Research Lab dedicated to the development of quantum-secure networking solutions.
Toshiba’s Journey from Research to Commercialisation of Quantum Technologies

Quantum is no longer the future, we can and should be using it today. QKD is the ultimate way to protect our data and will play a pivotal role in creating the next generation of internet that is quantum secure.

Andrew Shields, Head of Quantum Technology Division at Toshiba has spent more than 30 years of his career researching the radical impact that quantum computing will make on our society. At the opening of Toshiba’s cutting-edge commercial quantum hub in the UK, senior figures from UK and Japanese Government, partners, customers, and the academic community were among the guests that have worked with Toshiba to champion the commercialisation of Quantum technologies.

Andrew Shields, head of the Quantum Technology Division at Toshiba

Andrew Shields, head of the Quantum Technology Division at Toshiba

The rapid advancement of quantum-based technologies is hugely exciting. What would take a classical supercomputer thousands of years, a large-scale quantum computer can complete in a matter of minutes. But with the benefits, come risks. Quantum computers pose an existential threat to current encryption methods due to their sheer power and will make many of the security systems used to protect some of the world’s most precious data obsolete. This considered, it’s no surprise that the quantum cryptography sector, a field that promises security, even against attacks that utilise quantum computers, is expected to become worth more than $3 billion by 2028*1.

A UK Hotbed of Innovation

Last year, the UK became just the third country in the world to have a tech sector valued at $1 trillion*2, and quantum is a key part of that sector. The UK is home to a burgeoning tech ecosystem that’s fostering innovative research into quantum technology and quantum-secure communications, with UK investment in quantum start-ups accounting for over 14% of total global investments in the past 10 years. In March 2023, the UK Government announced a 10-year vision*3 for the UK to be a leading quantum enabled economy.

UK Investment Minister, the Japanese Ambassador and top Toshiba executives performing the traditional kagami biraki ceremony

UK Investment Minister, the Japanese Ambassador and top Toshiba executives performing the traditional kagami biraki ceremony

Recognising such potential, Toshiba has invested more than £240 million in UK R&D, with around £100 million funding pioneering work in the development and commercialisation of quantum-based technologies, including Toshiba’s industry-leading quantum-secure networking solutions. But how did Toshiba get to where it is today, at the cutting edge of innovation and commercialisation of quantum-secure communications?

Quantum Beginnings: 30 Years of Heritage

For most, quantum technology has only recently come into public consciousness, but it’s been part of Toshiba’s DNA for over 30 years. In fact, Toshiba has been investing in quantum technology in the UK as early as 1991, when it opened its first overseas R&D site, the Cambridge Research Laboratory, dedicated to fostering innovation through basic and applied research in physics, engineering and computer science.

Toshiba’s journey ever since has been characterised by a series of world firsts in QKD development and deployment. In 1999, Toshiba started research into quantum cryptography at the Cambridge Research Laboratory. In 2003, it was the first to announce successful quantum key distribution over 100 km of fibre. By 2008, Toshiba had collaborated in the first QKD network in Europe as a core partner of the EU funded SECOQC project in Vienna.

For the past 30 years, Toshiba has continued to be at the cutting edge of research and development into quantum-secure communications, consistently breaking its own records and those of the broader industry.

The Shift to Commercialisation of Quantum Technologies

Toshiba’s efforts over the past few years to commercialise quantum computing marks a shift from pure R&D, taking what’s been learned in the lab and applying it to real world commercial situations.

The time has come to use these powerful technologies to protect our future data according to Shunsuke Okada, Executive Officer and Corporate Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer: The quantum era is not some distant future constrained to the walls of a research lab. It is here, and the technology is ready to safeguard the most sensitive of commercial data.

Shunsuke Okada, Executive Officer and Corporate Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer

Shunsuke Okada, Executive Officer and Corporate Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer

The commercialisation of quantum technology and the speed of its uptake is ultimately dependent on how easily it can integrate with existing infrastructure. The answer to this question lies in collaboration between some of the world’s leading technology and telecommunications companies. That’s why Toshiba partnered with BT in 2021, successfully implementing quantum security of smart manufacturing data shared between the National Composite Centre and the Centre for Modelling and Simulation.

The result of this partnership was the launch of London’s first Quantum Secure Metro Network (QSMN) with BT in 2022. This award-winning quantum trial connected sites in London’s Docklands, the City and the M4 Corridor for end-user EY, helping them to secure the transmission of valuable data using quantum key distribution (QKD). This partnership will form the foundation of commercial QKD services in the UK and beyond.

In 2023, HSBC, one of the UK’s leading banks, became the latest customer to join BT and Toshiba’s pioneering QSMN as part of a commercial trial, working in collaboration with Amazon Web Services in a cloud-edge system for easy deployment of QKD to other regions. Using QKD, HSBC connected its global HQ in Canary Wharf and a data centre in Berkshire to explore different use cases for protecting its global operations against future cyber threats.

The Next Step Forward to Commercialisation

Toshiba’s two dedicated quantum technology facilities represent very different, but equally important, ambitions. The first, its Cambridge Research Laboratory, will continue to be committed to R&D and breaking world and industry firsts. The second, recently opened in September 2023, marks the next step towards commercialisation with a £20 million investment from Toshiba into the development of quantum-secure networking solutions.

Commercialisation of QKD put in the hands of businesses throughout the UK, would represent a big step forward in realising the UK’s 10-year vision to become a leading quantum-enabled economy and science and technology superpower.

The possibility presented by this new facility is shared by both Toshiba and the UK Government, according to Shunsuke Okada: “This opening represents a significant milestone and the next step in Toshiba’s journey in making quantum a reality. We continue to be grateful for the fantastic support of the UK Government for both Toshiba and creating a tech ecosystem where quantum technology development can thrive. The shift from research to commercialisation not only reflects the strategic importance of these technologies to Toshiba, but also in delivering a quantum-secure economy for the wider world.

As Toshiba’s top executives, UK Government officials and customers gathered for the official opening ceremony of this new commercial quantum hub, the mood was one of celebration.

It’s still unclear exactly when in the near future that quantum computing will be widely available for the mass market. But, thanks to research and innovation from the likes of Toshiba, there is increasing confidence that we will be able to harness the power of quantum without sacrificing the security of our future data. It seemed apt that the UK Investment Minister, the Japanese Ambassador and top Toshiba executives gathered to perform the traditional kagami biraki ceremony, in which the lid of the sake barrel is broken open by a wooden mallet and the sake is served to everyone present, symbolising new beginnings and hope for the future to come.


Related Links

*This section contains links to websites operated by companies and organizations other than Toshiba Corporation.

Quantum Key Distribution Website - Toshiba Corporation

Quantum Key Distribution - Toshiba Europe

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