Government sees potential ‘quantum ecosystem’ in Australia

Good potential for quantum computing industry but STEM skills still a concern, industry says

By George Nott
Aug. 31, 2016


Industry, innovation and science minister Greg Hunt says that the government's support for quantum computing research will not only maintain Australia's competitive edge in the "global race to build a quantum computer", but also help grow a local "quantum ecosystem" and industry.

Addressing an AFR Innovation Summit in Sydney last week, Hunt said that he believed development of quantum technology "will create new high-tech job opportunities for our nation".

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, opening a new lab at the Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T) in Sydney earlier this year, said scientists there were not just doing great work but "the best work in the world".

The centre, which is racing towards its goal of building the world's first scalable silicon-based quantum computer, received $25 million of government funding as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

The CQC2T has also attracted private sector backing. The Commonwealth Bank and Telstra have heavily invested in the UNSW-based labs.

The bank and telco, as well as other industry players, have echoed the government's sentiment on the potential of the country's quantum ecosystem, but with a caveat: Don't forget to support the skills this new industry will require.

World leader

David Whiteing, the Commonwealth Bank's chief information officer, toldComputerworld that Australia was in an "enviable position" when it came to quantum technology.

"With the government and industry's support and the ability to commercialise the opportunities from this leadership position, we're in a unique position to create a high technology ecosystem here in Australia," he said.

"This ecosystem would be defensible in the medium term, due to the unique nature of the technology, but we need to look beyond that. We're now thinking about software and services that are relevant to our customers, and now's the time to invest in those opportunities and begin to create something truly differentiated."

Dr Hugh Bradlow, chief scientist at Telstra, agreed that Australia could be a world leader in the field.

"The CQC2T has already established world leadership in the creation of silicon qubits," Bradlow said. "Their technology is based on well-established silicon technology which is today the foundation of all our ICT industries. Their technology, once scaled therefore offers a solution which if manufactured at scale would give Australia a global leadership position."

Ecosystem

Local research into quantum technology and efforts to commercialise it go beyond CQC2T's Sydney labs.

CQC2T has additional facilities at the University of Melbourne, Australian National University, Griffith University, University of Sydney, University of Queensland and the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy.

The Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems, better known as EQuS, is based at the University of Queensland and is on a mission to "initiate the Quantum Era in the 21st century by engineering designer quantum systems".

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