Defence makes a quantum call to arms

Applications have opened for the federal government's 'Next Generation' Technologies Fund, calling for quantum-related proposals that benefit the Australian Defence Force.

The Australian government is seeking applications for its Next Generation Technologies Fund, looking in particular for proposals from industry, academia, and government research agencies that contribute to the potential development of quantum technologies.

The AU$730 million fund, announced in March last year, is expected to provide "creative solutions" to the Australian Defence Force, whilst also benefiting the nation's industry.

In addition to investigating quantum technologies, the priority themes of the 10-year research and development fund include integrated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities; space capabilities; enhanced human performance, including enhancing soldiers' resilience and ability to interpret and use data in the battlefield; medical countermeasure products to protect Defence personnel; multidisciplinary material sciences; trusted autonomous systems; cybersecurity; and advanced sensors, hypersonics, and directed energy capabilities.

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Focusing in particular on Defence-related quantum computing solutions, the Quantum Technologies Fund is aimed at realising the potential "game-changing" capabilities afforded by developments in quantum science, with Defence keen to capitalise on Australia's quantum opportunity.

"Quantum Technologies seeks to leverage the vibrant quantum science, technology and innovation capability across Australia to develop technology solutions of relevance to Defence," the call for applications reads.

Through partnership with industry, academia, and government research agencies, Defence is looking to understand the potential of quantum technologies, create prototype systems, and demonstrate the practical application of quantum systems to Defence problems.

"The goal of the Quantum Technologies Research Network is to inform Defence of the potential benefits and practical limitations of quantum technologies through studies and demonstrator systems within three years," the government wrote.

Research in Quantum Technologies will be pursued along three main lines of effort: Quantum sensing, navigation, and timing; quantum communications; and quantum computing and information.

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Applications for the three year project must address at least one of the three priority areas, and while both large and small-scale proposals are requested, larger proposals are expected to receive funding up to AU$1 million depending on scale, complexity, and risk.

Under the first priority area, the government is seeking to explore quantum clocks for ultra-accurate timing and synchronisation, quantum sensors for navigation, object, and chemical detection, and quantum imagers.

Quantum communications covers the development of quantum communication capabilities for free space applications, the use of entanglement as a resource to facilitate the transmission of information over decent distances, as well as studies on the practical limitations of quantum communications in optical fibre and/or the free space channel.

While the third priority area will require a focus on quantum computation algorithms that "efficiently solve classically hard problems" and integrate with classical computation systems, with applications sought in areas such as resource optimisation, machine learning and data analytics, imaging, and simulation of complex physical systems.

Studies on the practical applications of quantum computing to Defence, including on quantum bits (qubits), quantum memory, decoherence mitigation, error-correction and control of quantum systems, and integration with classical computing is also required.

In July, the Australian Department of Defence awarded Canberra-based quantum cybersecurity firm QuintessenceLabs AU$3.26 million in funding to continue the expansion of its quantum key distribution capabilities and develop an Australia-specific solution.

It is expected the solution will protect defence and other critical Australian government systems from "malicious cyber intrusion and disruption", and enhance the resilience of defence networks, both locally and abroad.

Applications for the Quantum Technologies Fund close February 13, 2018.

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