© 2020, The Author(s). Three-phase induction motors (TIMs) are widely used for machines in industrial operations. As an accurate and robust controller, fuzzy logic controller (FLC) is crucial in designing TIMs control systems. The performance of FLC highly depends on the membership function (MF) variables, which are evaluated by heuristic approaches, leading to a high processing time. To address these issues, optimisation algorithms for TIMs have received increasing interest among researchers and industrialists. Here, we present an advanced and efficient quantum-inspired lightning search algorithm (QLSA) to avoid exhaustive conventional heuristic procedures when obtaining MFs. The accuracy of the QLSA based FLC (QLSAF) speed control is superior to other controllers in terms of transient response, damping capability and minimisation of statistical errors under diverse speeds and loads. The performance of the proposed QLSAF speed controller is validated through experiments. Test results under different conditions show consistent speed responses and stator currents with the simulation results.