Silicon Quantum Computing launched to commercialise UNSW quantum work

The new company will accelerate the university's push towards a 10-qubit system.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

A new company dubbed Silicon Quantum Computing (SQC) has been launched to take advantage of and commercialise the work done by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in the quantum space.

SQC will work out of new laboratories within the Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T) at UNSW, and is slated to hire 40 staff members -- made up in part by 25 post-doctoral researchers and 12 PhD students.

The board for SQC will consist of professor Michelle Simmons, who has been the driving force behind CQC2T; Telstra chief scientist Hugh Bradlow; Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) CIO David Whiteing; and Secretary of the federal Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Glenys Beauchamp, with corporate lawyer Stephen Menzies to serve as its interim chair.

Announced on Wednesday as a new shareholder, but not taking a board seat, was the NSW government, which funded the company to the tune of AU$8.7 million from its Quantum Computing Fund.

The state government funding follows CBA investing AU$14 million, Telstra injecting AU$10 million, the federal government allocating AU$25 million over four years, and UNSW putting $25 million towards CQC2T.

SQC is targeting having a 10-qubit machine commercialised by 2022.

Menzies told ZDNet that the creation of the company would shorten the time to market by three years, and allow for a patent portfolio to be built. He said the company is seeking three more investors to fund it at similar levels to Telstra and CBA, and is currently on the hunt for a CEO.

"We will fund hardware, but from that we will develop a patent pool which we hope will be without peer in the world," Menzies said during the launch.

"In the first five years, we are very focused, the business plan is focused on the patents associated with an engineered 10-qubit device. But beyond that, we see that we have a stage on which we develop across Australia and across Australian institutions, a broad quantum industry."

Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Arthur Sinodinos said quantum computing was important to the country's future.

"Whatever sector of innovation, we want to be really good in, we need to be world beaters," he said on Wednesday.

"We want to be able to create a competitive advantage, command a premium, and you do that by doing something new, something that others find it hard to replicate, or it takes them time to replicate and by the time they have replicated it, you've moved on to something else."

Previously, Simmons said she believes the work completed by CQC2T to develop silicon-based qubits will win out in the race to a 30-qubit system.

"We do believe that silicon is the one that has longevity; it's a manufacturable material, and it has some of the highest-quality qubits that are out there," Simmons said in June.

"That's why it's very exciting for Australia. We actually believe this can go all the way, and we believe we can build it in Australia."

Telstra chief scientist Bradlow reiterated on Wednesday that Telstra sees itself offering quantum computing as a service.

"I can assure you they are not going to walk in on day one and know how to use these things," he said previously.

"We want to be able to offer it as-a-service to them ... they will need a lot of hand holding, and they are not going to run the equipment themselves, it's complicated."

For its part, CBA is preparing for a quantum future by using a quantum computing simulator from QxBranch.

"The difference between the emulator of a quantum computer and the real hardware is that we run the simulator on classical computers, so we don't get the benefit of the speed up that you get from quantum, but we can simulate its behaviour and some of the broad characteristics of what the eventual hardware will do," QxBranch CEO Michael Brett told ZDNet in April.

"What we provide is the ability for people to explore and validate the applications of quantum computing so that as soon as the hardware is ready, they'll be able to apply those applications and get the benefit immediately of the unique advantages of quantum computing."

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