Governments, business and universities have joined forces to keep UNSW’s world leading quantum computing technology in Australia, launching a new $83 million company which aims to produce a working prototype computer within five years.
The company, Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Ltd, will have a key goal of retaining IP in Australia and boosting new industries based around quantum computing and other quantum spin-offs.
Establishing the company has been a long-term goal of UNSW physics professor Michelle Simmons who leads the university’s research and development in the race to build the world’s first practical quantum computer.
Professor Simmons said she approached the federal government to urge public investment in quantum computing because of the many approaches she was getting from large multinationals and overseas venture capital for access to the discoveries her team had made.
Pick us off
“We had lots of different groupings come to us saying they would work with our research teams, but they would have got all the benefits,” she said.
“Everything we did would have gone to them. People were trying to pick us off.
“Personally I just felt complete responsibility for just not dropping the ball, making sure that this great thing that we had was not just siphoned off for free.”
Professor Simmons said it was an “eye-opener” for her that not only the IT industry was beating a path to her door, but companies from “across the board” illustrating her belief that quantum computing will have a revolutionary impact in many industries including finance, resource extraction, health, pharmaceuticals, logistics and data.
Quantum computers are expected to solve some types of problems millions of times faster than conventional computers.
The new company will hold the quantum computing related patents from the Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, led by Professor Simmons, which also includes researchers from the University of Melbourne and other universities.
Its aim will be to ensure that the full range of industries developed from quantum computing including hardware, software, and big quantum server farms are developed in Australia.
Silicon Quantum Computing’s chair, lawyer Stephen Menzies, said the company would not offer exclusive rights on its technology but would only offer licences for specific purposes for a limited time.
“Too much Australian research innovation is lost [overseas],” he said.
Mr Menzies said it was a commercial venture, and its shareholders the federal and NSW governments, Telstra, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and UNSW would profit from the increasing value of the company’s patents.
The company’s $83 million capital comes from UNSW ($25 million), the federal government ($25 million), the Commonwealth Bank ($14 million), Telstra ($10 million) plus a new investment of $8.7 million from the NSW government the first to be made from its $26 million quantum computing fund announced last month.
It will fund a major expansion of the quantum computing research effort at UNSW. Up to 40 new staff will be hired including 25 researchers and 12 PhD students, and new equipment to speed the development of a 10 qubit prototype computer by 2022.
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