26 June 2024

Making the quantum leap from research to reality

Australia is using quantum technologies in mining, transport and national security, with several other commercial applications under development.

When PsiQuantum announced it was building the world’s first fault-tolerant quantum computer in Australia, it was another step in a truly global journey.

PsiQuantum was founded by 2 Australians, initially developed its core technology in the UK, and grew in Silicon Valley to become one of the world’s best-funded independent quantum firms.

It is now expanding to Australia to be the core of a multibillion-dollar manufacturing innovation hub, thanks to almost A$1 billion in combined funding from the Australian and Queensland governments.

Taking quantum out the lab and into the ‘real world’

Australia’s quantum innovations are the result of 30-plus years of dedicated research. Today, there are 22 quantum-focused research institutions in Australia, including 3 centres of excellence. We have the fifth largest quantum workforce in the world. Our quantum-focused research programs ensure a strong pipeline of talent.

Now, it’s our numerous commercial and industrial quantum applications that are driving a rise in investment. These include Nomad Atomics’ commercialisation of compact quantum gravimeters for the mining and energy sectors. It’s quantum-focused VC fund Quantonation making its first Australian investment, in Diraq. It’s the continued growth of Australia’s first quantum computing company, with Silicon Quantum Research raising A$50.4 million in Series A funding in July 2023.

Our mining, transport, health, finance, space and defence sectors are attracting global attention for applying quantum solutions for materials analysis, sensing, timing, cryptography and navigation.

‘Quantum is one of Australia’s most promising growth opportunities,’ says CSIRO Chief Scientist Professor Bronwyn Fox. ‘It is a chance to create new markets, new applications, new opportunities and new jobs for our country.’

Strengthening Australia’s national security

Australia’s key border surveillance system will leverage a quantum solution developed by Australian defence technology company QuantX Labs. The technology, called the Sapphire Cryogenic Clock (Cryoclock), will be incorporated in the Jindalee Operational Radar Network (JORN). JORN consists of 3 remote Over the Horizon radars that provide wide-area surveillance of Australian borders.

Cryoclock uses a sapphire crystal cryogenically cooled to minus 267 degrees Celsius to produce one of the purest radio frequency signals in the world. The extremely pure signal increases JORN’s range and sensitivity to search for and identify even the smallest targets approaching Australia.

QuantX, BAE Systems Australia, the University of Adelaide and defence agencies worked together to fast-track Cryoclock and bring the technology to market. QuantX and BAE Systems Australia are now working to incorporate Cryoclock into JORN’s Phase 6 upgrade. Beyond this radar application, Cryoclock has numerous other uses in communications, navigation and measurement apparatus.

Protecting critical systems with quantum-strength cyber security

Australian quantum leader QuintessenceLabs (QLabs) is building an advanced suite of cyber security products based on quantum-safe encryption technologies. This includes one of the world’s fastest true random number generators. Recognised by the World Economic Forum for its innovation in quantum cyber security, QLabs has deployed advanced cryptography solutions for banks (Westpac), defence (Northrop Grumman), telecommunications (Verizon) and government (US Department of Defense).

Taking transport into the 21st century

Transport for NSW (TfNSW) is the state government entity responsible for New South Wales’s transport network. In 2022–23, the network supported 624 million passenger trips across trains, metro, buses, ferries and light rail services and 68.4 million point to point trips in taxis, car share and hire cars.

In a world-first, in 2021 TfNSW and the NSW Government outlined a strategy to use quantum technology to help solve the complex problems faced by transport networks. By harnessing quantum to process and analyse ever-growing data sets, TfNSW could better plan, manage and optimise the transport network, improve customer service, and build a future-proof network.

TfNSW has demonstrated its long-term commitment to developing quantum solutions. It has worked with Australian startup Q-CTRL to build custom software packages since 2021, and partners with IBM, Microsoft, and NEC (D-Wave). In October 2023, TfNSW contracted Silicon Quantum Computing to design bespoke hardware focused on solving challenges around data analysis, optimisation and modelling.

A futuristic green circuit board with a square microchip in the centre.

Sensing mineral deposits deep underground

A quantum sensing technology developed by Australia’s national science agency CSIRO is helping mining companies worldwide to detect mineral deposits with greater accuracy.

CSIRO’s LANDTEM uses quantum sensors to detect magnetic fields that are 100 millionth of the size of earth’s magnetic fields. LANDTEM can find deep bodies of highly conducting ores, including nickel sulphide, copper and silver. It can differentiate the target ore from other material, even when buried deep underground.

Glencore, Legend Mining, Mincor Resources, Western Areas, Aeris Resources and companies in Canada are using LANDTEM. The technology has helped discover more than A$10 billion of ore deposits around the world, with A$4 billion of these discoveries located in Australia.

Supporting the world’s transition to net zero

Quantum technology will have a major role to play in accelerating the world’s transition to net zero.

Australia’s Jovian Tech is building process instrumentation to measure the spin‑isomer ratio in hydrogen molecules. The technology will help hydrogen plant operators to optimise operations and lower costs.

Founded by scientists from the Australian National University, Aqacia’s solutions combine machine learning and quantum physics. The company’s technology can potentially be used to model and predict chaotic wind patterns and recognise defects in solar panels.

Quantum batteries offer higher energy storage capacity, faster charging rates, and longer battery lifetimes compared to conventional batteries. These next-generation batteries are poised to revolutionise energy storage in electric vehicles, renewable energy systems and portable electronics. CSIRO’s Quantum Battery Team is researching quantum battery technologies from fabrication to spectroscopic measurement and theoretical modelling.

Research focused on solutions to real-world problems

Australia’s quantum research is grounded in solving real-world challenges. Much of this research is in collaboration with industry and government. International companies will find opportunities to develop industry applications of their technologies in Australia.

Collaborations drive new innovations

Australian universities are leading cutting-edge quantum research – and global companies are turning to their expertise.

Google works with 4 Australian universities on ways to make quantum computing useful and usable, exploring applications like sensing, communications and materials science.

The Quantum Science Group at the University of Sydney hosts one of only three Microsoft quantum research labs worldwide. The lab supports Microsoft to develop a quantum machine based on topological qubits.

IBM’s quantum hub at the University of Melbourne dates back to 2017. The university was a founding member of IBM’s Q Network. The network, comprising Fortune 500 companies, academic institutions and national research labs, works with IBM to explore quantum applications for business and science.

Government support for quantum

Quantum is a priority sector for the Australian Government. It released Australia’s first National Quantum Strategy in May 2023, outlining its plans to grow the quantum industry. According to the strategy, quantum computing will be a A$6 billion opportunity for Australia and will create 19,400 jobs over the next 2 decades.

There is a wide variety of funding available for quantum research. The A$15 billion National Reconstruction Fund targets projects and investments that help Australia capture new, high-value market opportunities. The NRF will provide finance (including loans, guarantees and equity) to drive investments in 7 priority areas, including quantum computing.

The A$36 million Critical Technologies Challenge Program invites companies, research organisations and academic institutions to submit solutions that address challenges in energy, medical, autonomous systems and resources. International partners can form consortia with Australian quantum organisations.

The Australian Government has also provided a A$18.4 million grant to the University of Sydney to establish Quantum Australia. The new national centre will raise awareness of quantum technology, foster collaboration between industry and universities, encourage the creation and growth of more quantum startups, and connect quantum companies on a national and international scale.

Find out more about Australia’s quantum sector.

Subscribe to the Investment Update newsletter

Find out about new investment opportunities, insights and investor success stories across Australia.

Related news