Science

Funding: $46m from industry and government to boost quantum computing race

L-R: Professor Sven Rogge, Professor Andrea Morello, Scientia Professor Michelle Simmons, Scientia Professor Andrew Dzurak
Wednesday, 9 December, 2015
Denise Knight

UNSW’s flagship quantum computing project has received pledges of $10m each from the Commonwealth Bank and Telstra, in addition to the $26m grant announced by the federal government on Monday.

Telstra yesterday announced an in-principle commitment of $10 million plus in-kind support over the next five years to the UNSW-based Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, led by Scientia Professor Michelle Simmons.

It followed a similar $10 million pledge from the Commonwealth Bank made on Tuesday after the federal government promised $26 million to the Centre as part of its $1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda unveiled on Monday.

CBA chief executive Ian Narev said the bank intended to invest an additional $10 million over five years, building on an initial $5 million committed in December 2014.

Mr Narev said Professor Simmons’ trailblazing work was proof that “world-leading innovation can happen – and is happening – in Australia”.

“For innovation to thrive there must be collaboration between governments, research institutions, businesses and entrepreneurs,” he said.

“Our investment has a long-term focus and is an example of potential collaboration and commercialisation.”

Professor Simmons, who leads the centre with more that 180 researchers, was delighted by the announcement, which she said underscored the Commonwealth Bank’s position as a visionary technology leader.

“This investment sends a very powerful message about supporting internationally leading Australian research in areas of breakthrough technology,” she said.

“We are very much looking forward to extending our positive interactions with the bank to secure this technology for Australia’s future.”

Telstra chief executive officer Andrew Penn said the company was thrilled to be involved in such a dynamic, world-leading project.

“The potential of quantum computing is significant for countries across the globe, and we are excited to be part of this important initiative to build the world’s first silicon-based quantum computer in Sydney,” said Mr Penn.

“Telstra is ready and willing to play a role in building for the future. We must come together to plan for future generations through technological advancements. This partnership is a solid demonstration of this commitment.”

Professor Simmons said: “It has been an amazing week for the silicon quantum computing teams at UNSW and the University of Melbourne. We are thrilled that Australian technology leaders Telstra are getting behind our world-leading research.

"It is recognition of the fantastic work that many researchers across these nodes have achieved over the past decade and we hope this investment will form the basis of new industries here in Australia.” 

UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Ian Jacobs thanked the government, Telstra and the CBA, hailing the collaboration as a powerful example of “what can happen when a culture of innovation is fostered from the top”.

“What a week for innovation, industry collaboration and UNSW’s world-leading quantum computing researchers,” said Professor Jacobs.

“The University applauds the vision and commitment of two of Australia's iconic corporates, the Commonwealth Bank and Telstra, in recognising the global significance and promise that quantum computing holds for the future.”

Quantum computing in silicon is an entirely new system at the atomic scale and Australia leads the world in single-atom engineering. In the long term, a single quantum computer has the potential to exceed the combined power of all the computers currently on Earth for certain high-value applications including data processing and drug development.

Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Christopher Pyne told the National Press Club that Australian researchers were currently winning the global quantum computing race and the government intended to cement their position.

“We are already at the forefront here, and now is the time to back our success, invest the money and see some results,” said Mr Pyne.

Media contact: Denise Knight, 0405 207 685, d.knight@unsw.edu.au