Illustration of Google's Sycamore quantum computing processor.

Illustration of Google’s Sycamore QC processor. Source: AFP

Australia plots course for commercial quantum computing supremacy

Quantum computing could become big business in Australia, and the country is ready to seize the opportunity.

According to a new ‘roadmap’ plotted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, or CSIRO, Australia’s government agency for scientific research, the Australian quantum computing technology industry will generate US$4 billion dollars annually and 16,000 jobs by 2040.

Rapidly being developed and researched, quantum computing will be able to solve problems classical computers can’t

While computing giants like IBM and Google are leading with the most advanced superconducting technology, startups that can offer quantum-computing-as-a-service could make the technology available to a wider pool of companies earlier. 

In CSIRO’s report, Growing Australia’s Quantum Technology Industry, the agency identifies actions to ensure Australia’s world-class research and quantum computing startups support long-term and ‘thriving’ economic growth, empowering industries through applications such as mineral exploration, drug discovery and secure communications.

CSIRO says the time for Australia to advance is now, having established itself as a pioneer in the field of quantum technology research and development for more than two decades. Those efforts are coming into fruition through the emergence of quantum technology startups. 

“Australia can become an important part of a global quantum industry supply chain, contributing to fundamental scientific knowledge and developing intellectual property and advanced technologies that can be exported and monetized,” the report reads. 

“However, in the context of booming private investment and strategic commitments by its international peers, Australia must act now to build upon its strengths in quantum technology R&D and position itself to capture this opportunity.” 

The roadmap broadly comprises a four-pronged approach, including;

  • Development of a national quantum technology strategy to implement planned actions and to set long-term strategic priorities, commitments, and indicators of success for Australia’s quantum industry
  • The attraction, training and retention of quantum talent and an assessment of the future quantum technology workforce’s skill needs to inform strategic capability development and growth
  • The exploration of efficient and effective funding mechanisms to support the demonstration and commercialization of quantum technology applications and enable the growth of emerging quantum businesses
  • An assessment of industry capabilities and infrastructure facilities that will be critical to the success of a domestic quantum industry, and the development of business cases to address any gaps

CSIRO believes quantum computing can be the most promising long-term opportunity for Australia, while the agency’s chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said quantum technology can help Australia grow a sustainable technology industry.

“As Australia recovers from the impacts of COVID-19, we will need to create new industries to give Australia an unfair advantage globally to produce unique high margin products that support higher wages,” Dr Marshall said.

“Science and Technology are the key to economic prosperity in a world driven by disruption.”

Dr Cathy Foley, the agency’s chief scientist, added that to realize this huge potential across industries, researchers and industry need to work together to overcome development challenges.

“Quantum computing has the potential to contribute more than AU$2.5 billion to the economy each year, while spurring breakthroughs in drug development, more efficient industrial processes, and accelerated machine learning systems,” Dr Foley said.

“The commercialization of quantum enhanced sensors and communications technologies could also generate upwards of AU$1.7 billion revenue.

“To realize these opportunities, we need a national conversation about a coordinated, collaborative approach to growing a thriving domestic quantum economy.”

As competition in quantum computing heats up across the world, Australia already has a number of early stage startups developed in its universities that have attracted hundreds of millions in investment over the last few years. 

One of those is Sydney-based Q-CTRL –  a company that applies the principles of control engineering to accelerate the development of quantum technology. Founder and CEO, Michael J. Biercuk, told Tech Wire Asia that Australia “had the makings of something exceptional.”

“It’s gratifying to see that vision advancing towards a unified approach to turn local research capabilities into economic prosperity.

“It’s exciting to see that the strength of the research sector which drew me to Australia 10 years ago is now transitioning into a world-class industrial base,” he said. 

“I truly believe that quantum technology represents Australia’s most promising technological and export opportunity of our generation.”