Aussie firm spearheads drive to commercialise quantum computing

| November 1, 2017

Australia is often urged to improve its commercialisation of academic research and the launch of our first quantum computing hardware company, at UNSW Sydney, offers hope that good intentions are increasingly being realised.

Rather than the binary operations of traditional transistors, quantum computers make direct use of quantum-mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform operations on data.  Functional quantum computers would not only revolutionise IT but could transform the economy and society itself, creating industries and capabilities undreamt of today. Quantum computers would offer advances as profound as the invention of computing itself, with the power to solve problems which today’s super computers would take centuries to tackle, or be unable to comprehend at all.  In addition to accelerating normal IT operations, they could empower machine learning and artificial intelligence and create ambient computing environments offering essentially unlimited computing power to anyone in the world on demand.

The new $83 million firm, Silicon Quantum Computing Ltd, is based at the University of New South Wales in Sydney and will recruit up to 40 staff, including 25 postdoctoral researchers, 12 PhD students, and lab technicians. It will commercialise UNSW’s cutting edge research and aims to produce a prototype 10-qubit quantum integrated circuit by 2022, taking the lead in the 21st century’s ‘space race’.

The NSW Government has pledged $8.7 million from its recently announced Quantum Computing Fund to the firm, adding to the $25 invested by UNSW, $14 million from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and $10 million from Telstra.  $25 million will also be received from the Commonwealth Government over five years as part of its National Innovation and Science Agenda.

At the launch of the firm at the Kensington Campus, its Interim Chair Stephen Menzies hailed its three-way partnership between research, industry and government as a new direction for the commercialisation of Australian research. “The public-private venture establishing Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Ltd is an important pilot scheme to develop a new pathway for commercialising leading Australian research. It will maintain vital IP in Australia and develop a nascent quantum information ecosystem here in NSW.”  The firm will operate from state of the art laboratories within CQC2T’s UNSW headquarters. Opening the laboratories in 2016, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull praised UNSW’s research in the transformative technology as the “best work in the world”.

The work is led by Professor Michelle Simmons whose team has pioneered a string of breakthroughs. Professor Simmons said Australia had enormous strength in quantum information research and underlined that “It’s an exciting time to invest in this new industry that will shape the 21st century. We are open for business and open to further investment from interested partners.” Professor Simmons recently won a €100,000 international L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Award and was named NSW Scientist of the Year in 2012.

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One Comment

  1. Olga Bodrova

    November 3, 2017 at 11:54 am

    Michelle Simmons has been my inspiration ever since I’ve read her 2017 Australia Day address – she is phenomenal and a fantastic role model for young girls considering a career in STEM. We need more stories like hers to celebrate Australian innovation.