Collaboration announced to develop a new generation of sensor technologies

Plans for a new generation of sensors - technology that underpins the UK economy - are to be prepared in a unique industrial, academic and Government collaboration announced today.

The University of Birmingham, BAE Systems , BT and BP are working together to enable the development and integration of new sensing technologies. This remarkable joint initiative involving three of the largest corporations on the FTSE100 will drive forward cutting-edge innovation.

The collaboration to create a ‘road map’ for action will be driven by the Government-funded and University of Birmingham-led UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing , part of the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme.

The collaboration will draw on unrivalled experience of the ‘system of systems’ that knits together critical infrastructure in the UK, using that knowledge to establish a comprehensive technology ‘road map’ of where advanced sensor requirements will be needed.

It is estimated that a critical failure of sensor technology in the UK would cause the economy to lose 5.2 billion in the first five days alone.

PA Consulting , which specialises in accelerating the pace of innovation and transformation across industry, is bringing its expertise to the collaboration to identify cross-sectoral synergies where the partnership can bind together.

The need for new sensors, which make devices safe, workable and accurate, has emerged as world economies move closer to turning quantum technologies into products. The products developed will push the boundaries of what is known and can be done, profoundly transforming the economy and wider society. Existing sensor technology risks becoming outdated and outpaced by the accelerating speed of technological developments, mainly driven by the coming quantum revolution.

Professor Kai Bongs , a Director of Innovation at the University of Birmingham and Principal Investigator of the UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing, said: “This venture is a call to overcome sectoral boundaries and join forces to address challenges, such as well-being in an ageing society; fast broadband for everyone; productivity in infrastructure; resilient navigation; security of autonomous transport, and reduced carbon emissions.

“Working together, this extraordinary and powerful partnership will produce the creativity and innovation that is crucial to the development of new sensors. These will be integral to resolving major economic and societal challenges and opportunities ahead.

“Our collaboration will inform and guide new sensor development together with their integration and exploitation, tailored to the needs of practical applications.

“The companies in this collaboration, each a leader in its respective sector, recognise both the disruptive potential of quantum technologies and the opportunity for acceleration of products into the market that could be achieved through leveraging common action.’

Julia Sutcliffe, Chief Technologist for BAE Systems Air Sector, said: “Our collaboration with the University of Birmingham means we can quickly take technology from a lab environment and apply it in real-world scenarios.

“For example, our test pilots are trialling novel technologies to measure cognitive workload both on the ground and in the air. It means we can test how intuitive and effective it really is, and ensure this learning is fed back into the research and development at an early stage.’

Richard Debney, Vice President Data Science at BP, said: "Our work has always relied on the most advanced sensors and data processing available. Sensor innovation will be important to help us achieve net zero by 2050 and pivot to an integrated energy company focused on delivering solutions for customers.’

Professor Tim Whitley, Managing Director of BT Applied Research, said: “Sensors are becoming a critical component of many telecoms applications, services and operations. Working at the leading edge of sensor technology and data analytics development will enable BT to deploy mission critical services for our customers and better manage the nation’s telecoms infrastructure.’

Paul Martin, Quantum Technology Expert at PA Consulting, commented: “This is an exciting development to provide ingenious leadership in key markets for quantum sensing. The opportunity to scale technology for commercial benefit is huge - we are delighted to help bring it life.’

About UK Quantum Technology Hub Sensors and Timing
The University of Birmingham hosts one of four hubs for the commercial development of quantum technologies as part of The UK National Quantum Technologies Programme (UKNQTP). This was set up by the UK Government in 2014 to turn advances in understanding of quantum technologies, which exploit the quantum advantages of matter and light, into commercial products. It created four regional hubs to focus on different areas where these might be developed for the benefit of society and the economy. UKNQTP supports the Quantum Technologies Challenge, which is part of UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), a Government agency that directs funding from the science budget of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. The UKNQTP represents currently a committed investment of more than 1 billion, half from the private sector.

About BAE Systems
Technology and innovation are central to BAE Systems’ strategy, underpinning the continued development of its products and services. In 2019, we spent 1.5bn on R&D, of which 237m was self-funded.

The University of Birmingham is one of the BAE Systems’ five strategic university partnerships which were first announced in 2017. With world leading research in quantum sensing, virtual reality and immersive systems technologies, the partnership with Birmingham will help ensure that BAE Systems retains cutting edge capability in these areas.

About BT
BT Group is the UK’s leading telecommunications and network provider and a leading provider of global communications services and solutions, serving customers in 180 countries. Its principal activities in the UK include the provision of fixed voice, mobile, broadband and TV (including Sport) and a range of products and services over converged fixed and mobile networks to consumer, business and public sector customers. For its global customers, BT provides managed services, security and network and IT infrastructure services to support their operations all over the world. BT consists of four customer-facing units: Consumer, Enterprise, Global and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Openreach, which provides access network services to over 650 communications provider customers who sell phone, broadband and Ethernet services to homes and businesses across the UK. For the year ended 31 March 2020, BT Group’s reported revenue was 22,905m with reported profit before taxation of 2,353m. British Telecommunications plc is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group plc and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on the London Stock Exchange

About BP
BP is an integrated energy business operating in around 80 countries with around 70,000 employees. We provide heat, light and mobility to customers all over the world. Our purpose is reimagining energy for people and our planet with an ambition to be a net zero company by 2050 or sooner. We want to help the world get to net zero and improve people’s lives

About PA Consulting
We believe in the power of ingenuity to build a positive human future in a technology-driven world. As strategies, technologies and innovation collide, we create opportunity from complexity.

Our diverse teams of experts combine innovative thinking and breakthrough use of technologies to progress further, faster. Our clients adapt and transform, and together we achieve enduring results.

An innovation and transformation consultancy, we are over 3,200 specialists in consumer, defence and security, energy and utilities, financial services, government, health and life sciences, manufacturing, and transport. Our people are strategists, innovators, designers, consultants, digital experts, scientists, engineers and technologists. We operate globally from offices across the UK, US, Europe, and the Nordics.


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