Quantum collaboration between South Korea and the UK gains momentum

Daniel Chiang; Willis Ke, DIGITIMES Asia 0

Credit: Oxford Instruments

With the recent signing of the new Downing Street Accord by South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, both countries are poised for a new era of technological cooperation. In particular, the UK's possession of crucial quantum computing technologies has the potential to create a synergistic relationship with South Korea, a global semiconductor powerhouse.

According to a Dong-A Ilbo report, the quantum industry welcomes the collaboration, citing the expanding US sanctions against China. These sanctions, which limit investments in China's quantum, semiconductor, and artificial intelligence (AI) sectors, raise concerns about the impact on the development of South Korea's quantum industry.

Qsimplus CEO Roh Gwang-seok emphasizes the sensitivity of importing quantum core equipment from the US due to South Korea's geographical proximity to China. Consequently, many companies are redirecting their focus to countries like the UK, which possess essential core technologies.

The essential "cryogenic cooling" technology needed for quantum computer production is one of the most representative advantages of the UK in the realm of quantum computers, with Oxford Instruments among the top three global providers of the technology. Given the extreme sensitivity of quantum states to thermal influences, requiring an environment at absolute zero, this technology is critical for advancing quantum computing.

Furthermore, the UK's strategic investment in photonics technology since the 1980s presents another avenue for collaboration. Photonic quantum computers, which can be produced through existing semiconductor processes, provide opportunities for partnerships with global semiconductor giants such as Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix. This is expected to become a pivotal area of cooperation between the UK and South Korea.

South Korean industry leaders recognize quantum as a key future technology, succeeding AI. Major companies are actively investing in research and development for various applications. Hyundai Motor's 2022 partnership with US-based IonQ exemplifies this trend, utilizing quantum computers to explore catalyst materials for hydrogen fuel cells, aiming to replace costly platinum catalysts in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles.

Additionally, POSCO Holdings, a prominent South Korean steelmaker, collaborates with French startup Pasqal and South Korean startup Qunova Computing. Their focus is on optimizing hydrogen production processes for environmentally friendly ironmaking and developing innovative technologies, including materials for secondary batteries.