Quantum computing is generally seen as the next step in computing technology, using the properties of quantum physics to store data and perform computations.

Proponents believe that once mastered, quantum computers would be capable of blazing speeds with the ability to solve complex problems that would take a classic computer a long time to work out.

However, quantum computing is just one facet of quantum technology, an emerging field of physics and engineering that seeks to create practical applications based on quantum mechanics.

This could include the acceleration of drug and materials development, constructing incredibly accurate sensors that can monitor oil and gas deposits and even more secure communications.

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In fact, the CSIRO believes that the emerging quantum technology sector could support 16,000 jobs and create over $4bn in annual revenues by 2040.

CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall believes it could help Australia grow a sustainable technology industry that will provide an unfair advantage globally to produce unique high-margin products that support higher wages.

“Science and technology are the key to economic prosperity in a world driven by disruption,” he said.

Of the various applications, CSIRO chief scientist Dr Cathy Foley identified quantum computing as being the most promising long-term opportunity with the potential to contribute more than $2.5bn to the economy each year.

“The commercialisation of quantum enhanced sensors and communications technologies could also generate upwards of $1.7bn revenue,” Foley said.

However, this would only be possible if researchers and industry worked together as quickly as possible to overcome development challenges and secure its place in the emerging global industry.

“To realise these opportunities, we need a national conversation about a coordinated, collaborative approach to growing a thriving domestic quantum economy,” Foley noted.

Australia already has a foothold in the global quantum technology sector with world-class expertise and research capabilities developed through over two decades of sustained investment in academic research.

The CSIRO noted that there are now at least 22 quantum-related research institutions — including eight universities — performing quantum physics research well above the world standard, while 16 private organisations have amassed more than $125m in funding and investment.

These include Archer Material (ASX:AXE), which earlier this month signed an agreement with IBM to advance quantum computing and work towards solutions for widescale adoption of the technology.

Archer is developing its CQ chip, which could potentially operate at room temperature and integrate into modern electronics. This represents a major advance over current quantum processors that can only operate at low temperatures or are difficult to integrate with modern electronics.

Q-CTRL, which describes itself as Australia’s first venture-capital-backed quantum technology company, welcomed the CSIRO’s roadmap, saying that it represents a major step in building government support for policy settings that nurture the emerging quantum technology industry.

“It’s exciting to see that the strength of the research sector which drew me to Australia 10 years ago is now transitioning into a world-class industrial base,” Q-CTRL founder and chief executive Michael Buercuk said.

He expressed his hope that Australia’s early research advantages could now be transformed into true economic prosperity.