Here’s why quantum computing in Australia is set for a breakout year in 2021
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Quantum computing is still in its infancy in Australia but 2021 is set to be a breakout year.
Quantum computers are a type of high-performing computer that can operate as speeds exponentially faster than conventional computers. Google famously claimed its quantum computer performed tasks in 200 seconds that would take a conventional supercomputer 10,000 years.
But while these machines can potentially turn the computer industry completely on its head, there are issues, such as temperature sensitivity, to be overcome.
Unfortunately, Australians are some years away from being able to buy their own quantum computer. But nobody argues that day will never come – it’s just a matter of when.
To see progress in 2020, you need to look no further than the ASX’s only quantum computing stock, Archer Materials (ASX:AXE).
Archer’s shares are up 311 per cent in the last 12 months albeit slightly off all time highs.
Archer CEO Mohammed Choucair told Stockhead a big 2021 awaits his company and the industry. He says in 2021 Archer will continue prototyping components of its 12CQ room-temperature computer chip alongside IBM’s programming framework.
“We at Archer see great potential in the opportunity for consumers and businesses to have a fully functional quantum chip in their mobile or computer,” Dr Choucair declared.
“Each technological milestone we achieve at Archer, no matter the perceived size, is a crucial step towards this goal.
“Ultimately, Australia continues to punch well above the nation’s weight in the quantum computing space and we look forward to being involved in global efforts in the development of quantum computing for widespread use and the consequent foundations of a new technological era.”
While Archer is the only ASX listed company in quantum computing there are several players off market.
Q-CTRL builds infrastructure software to support quantum technologies. It began in 2017 as a spin-off from Sydney University and raised $22 million in 2019.
Speaking with Stockhead, CEO and co-founder Michael Biercuk said that 2020 was a great year in which his company launched its core product, won several new clients and made significant achievements with its software.
But he believes 2021 will deliver even more.
“2021 is likely to be a year where quantum computer system sizes and capabilities grow, and more and more offerings shift to cloud-based ‘Quantum as a Service’ delivery,” Biercuk said.
“It will place us well into industry roadmaps towards 1000 qubit machines, meaning we’ll see some very impressive hardware performance metrics being reported.
“We’ll also likely be a bit overwhelmed by continuing claims and counterclaims of performance from different manufacturers – all of that will work out in the wash as applications continue to emerge.
“There’s more than enough space in the community for multiple hardware providers, especially as system architectures and software stacks remain an active area of R&D.”
Inevitably increased education is necessary to advance Australian quantum computing.
A major step was taken only yesterday afternoon with the formal launch of the Sydney Quantum Academy (SQA).
SQA is a partnership between UNSW, UTS, Macquarie and the University of Sydney; and is state government backed.
Jobs and investment minister Stuart Ayres and CSIRO chief scientist Cathy Foley say the academy is critical.
“The investment by the NSW Government in the Sydney Quantum Academy is a great example of the steps that are needed to create and accelerate a quantum ecosystem that will allow the whole of Australia to come together behind an industry that will create jobs and prosperity,” Dr Foley noted.
“Quantum is an industry that is going to do more than create new products and services. It will also catalyse a broader capability that will be transformational for all industries.
“It is going to allow us to do new things and accelerate our ability to solve challenges that seem unsolvable today.”
Stockhead spoke with SQA CEO Peter Turner who believes its unique in Australia and arguably the world.
“What’s unique in Sydney is the partnerships across four universities and their own quantum research groups,” he explained.
“Those four quantum groups, not only do they represent the largest quantum talent in Australia but globally it really is a powerhouse in the people and expertise here.”
Professor Turner does think there’ll be other quantum computing initiatives in Australia and the next 12 months will be interesting.
“I think for decades Australia has been at the forefront of quantum physics and information research and this really is just a natural progression of that,” he said.
“And it’ll be interesting to see how the wider, national community comes together which I hope they do and I think the SQA can play a role in that.”
Unfortunately you won’t see quantum computers for sale at Australian local hardware store or online for another few years.
Last week, IBM (NYSE:IBM) CEO Arvind Krishna set the goal for his company to have a full-fledged quantum computer containing 1000 qubits by 2023.
But Professor Turner believes 2021 will see more milestones reached on the journey towards this ambitious role.
He pointed to developments with Google’s Sycamore machine and news from China that it has built its own quantum device.
“Technologies are in this kind of race for a full-blown, error corrected universal quantum computer – which as we all know is probably years away,” he said.
“There’ll be milestones like this in the next year, I’m sure there’ll be others.”