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UNSW launches Australia’s first hardware quantum computing company with investments from federal and NSW governments

UNSW launches Australia’s first hardware quantum computing company with investments from federal and NSW governments

Above image: Silicon Quantum Computing Pty. Ltd. board members with the federal Industry Minister and NSW Chief Scientist. L to R: CBA Head of Emerging Technology Dilan Rajasingham, Telstra Chief Scientist Professor Hugh Bradlow, Secretary of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Glenys Beauchamp, Minister for for Industry, Innovation and Science the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO, UNSW Scientia Professor Michelle Simmons, Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Ltd Chair Stephen Menzies, NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Professor Mary O'Kane, UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs. Image courtesy cqc2t.org (Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology)

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) launched Australia’s first hardware quantum computing company, Silicon Quantum Computing Pty. Ltd. (SQC) to advance the development and commercialisation of the university’s quantum computing technology.

The Australian Government through its National Innovation and Science Agenda will invest AU$25 million over five years in Silicon Quantum Computing to produce a prototype quantum computer chip—the first step in building a fully-functional quantum computer.

The New South Wales (NSW) Government also announced that it will also invest AU$8.7 million in Silicon Quantum Computing from its recently announced AU$26 million quantum computing fund.

In addition, UNSW is contributing AU$25 million, while the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) and Telstra are providing AU$10 million each over the next five years. These investments build on previous government support for the technology and the CBA’s previous AU$4.14 million prior investment in the sector.

SQC will drive the development and commercialisation of a 10-qubit[1] quantum integrated circuit prototype in silicon by 2022 as the forerunner to a silicon-based quantum computer. The company will work alongside the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T), operating from new laboratories within the Centre’s UNSW headquarters.

Up to 40 staff are projected to be hired because of the new company, including 25 postdoctoral researchers, 12 PhD students, and lab technicians. Recruitment is currently underway.

Federal Minister for Science, Innovation and Industry, Arthur Sinodinos, hailed SQC as a prime example of how governments, researchers and business can work together to translate great Australian research into commercial reality.

He said quantum’s computational possibilities and capabilities had the potential to create entire new industries and revolutionise sectors across the economy. Australia was at least two or three years ahead of the rest of the world in developing the technology and the Australian government knew it had to back the effort.

“Quantum computing will help shape how we deal with health, our living spaces, our businesses, our transport systems, our financial systems and our whole economy and way of life,” Minister Sinodinos said.

Speaking at an event to launch the company at UNSW today, chief researcher and board member Professor Michelle Simmons,“The world is accelerating in this field and by having a company sitting alongside a Centre of Excellence, with the powerhouse of students and post docs that come through, we can make sure that Australia stays at the very forefront of this race. We really are creating the future here today. With Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Ltd now incorporated, we are fully committed to developing a 10-qubit silicon prototype. We are open for business and open to further investment.”

Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Ltd board members are Professor Simmons; Hugh Bradlow, Telstra’s Chief Scientist; David Whiteing, CBA’s Chief Information Officer; and Glenys Beauchamp, Secretary of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. The board will be chaired initially by corporate lawyer and company director Stephen Menzies.

Interim Chair of the board of SQC, Stephen Menzies, said that the company would maintain vital IP in Australia and develop a nascent quantum information ecosystem in NSW.

“We will fund hardware, but from that we will also develop a patent pool that will be without peer in the world. And that patent pool will allow us to work with other Australian institutions and corporations to lead to further innovation in the quantum age,” Mr. Menzies added.

Mr. Menzies hoped that the initial shareholders would be the first of many, saying, “The company will need additional monies and the business plan contemplates that additional shareholders will join – all of whom we hope will bring strategic focus to the business and who will bring their own enthusiasm and passion to the technologies.”

What is quantum computing?[1]

At the subatomic level, the laws of classical physics no longer apply.  Particles can exist in more than one state at a time. Quantum computing utilises these quantum-mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform operations on data. Entanglement occurs when pairs or groups of particles are generated or interact in ways such that the quantum state of each particle (such as the polarisation of a photon) cannot be described independently of the others, even when the particles are separated by a large distance, while superposition states that any two (or more) quantum states can be added together and the result will be another valid quantum state.

A classical bit can be in one of two states, 0 or 1, whereas a single qubit  or quantum bit can represent a 1, a 0 or any quantum superposition of those two qubit states. This implies that qubits can store a lot more information than classical bits, using less energy. Only when we measure to find out what state it's actually in at any given, the qubit "collapses" into one of its possible states, giving the answer to problem. A quantum computer's ability to work in parallel would make it millions of times faster than any conventional computer.

Large-scale quantum computers would theoretically be able to solve certain problems much more quickly than any classical computers that use the best currently known algorithms. They could potentially solve in a matter of hours, complex problems that would take a digital supercomputer more than a lifetime to achieve.

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