Quantum experts call for joint approach to growing Australia's quantum sector

A coordinated approach will attract talent, investment, and help Australia be globally competitive, says Australia's chief scientist.

Australia's Defence Science and Technology Group (DSTG) said it will be testing its first real use case of quantum technology in marine environments this year.

Speaking on a panel at the Quantum Australia 2022 Conference on Wednesday, DSTG chief defence scientist Tanya Monro detailed that the agency, which is part of the Department of Defence, will be taking "sensors out of the lab and integrating them, putting them in a real context, and most importantly, getting them in the hands of the ultimate end-users, so they can understand the advantage [quantum] can provide".

The technologies that Defence will be testing, according to Monro, will be "everything from quantum-based accelerometers, magnetometers, and gravimeters, but working together in a real context for the real problem, which is that you might be in an environment where DNSS or GPS is denied".

Read also: Quantum technologies are now part of the military's future roadmap

Monro believes such real-world use cases are important, as it provides the quantum industry with focus and ultimately opens funding opportunities.

"Our aim is to provide that context in that problem that you can pit yourself against, and by doing that increase the prospect of a commercial opportunity for Australia's quantum industry," she said.

She believes defence, however, should not be the only customer of quantum technology.

"A defence market alone is not a commercial proposition," she said.

"You need to be really clever in making sure that things like defence problems are articulated in a language that you can bring in companies that are not day by day working with defence … to have greater success, we need to make it easier for companies that don't traditionally work with defence to be able to hit dual use markets."

Michelle Simmons, director of the Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, agreed that one way to get value out of quantum research by universities and turn it into a viable commercial product is create to a "one-shot policy".

"Obviously that takes time and effort to get there, but making it easy for the end users, make it easy for young people to know how to get this stuff out there, and then fundamentally taking taxpayers funded research and getting it into the hands of people that can use it has to be the thing that we try and do. The easier we do that the better," she said.

Australia's chief scientist Cathy Foley echoed similar remarks during her keynote speech at the event, saying a direction needs to be set so that the quantum sector can build on it.

"The quantum industry needs to be industry-led. We don't want to have competition to hinder cooperation," she said.

"We want to build an organised and coordinated industry that will attract talent, investment, and be globally competitive. And we need to set the direction including skills, supply chains, and regulation. And finally, we need to take action -- total money invested is less important than actually having the joint vision."

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