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Australian Defence investing AU$6 million for the development of quantum technologies

Last week, the Australian Minister for Defence Industry, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, announced a AU$6 million investment for industry, academia and government research agencies to contribute to the development of quantum technologies [1] for Defence.

According to the press release, quantum Technologies is a key element of the AU$730 million Next Generation Technologies Fund (NGTF [2]) which is designed to provide game changing capabilities for the Australian Defence Force of the future.

This investment will be directed towards research to accelerate the exploitation of quantum technologies in a range of applications. Quantum technology proposals are being sought in two categories:

Smaller proposals which deliver studies to inform Defence on the applications, feasibility and practical limitations of quantum technologies

Larger proposals which address the development of concepts, algorithms and/or technology demonstrators which contribute to the development of Defence relevant capabilities

Proposals should address one or more of the following priority areas: 1) Quantum Sensing, Navigation and Timing; 2) Quantum Communications; and 3) Quantum Computing and Information.

For instance, quantum technologies could be used for the development of highly accurate time-keeping and advanced Global Positioning System (GPS)-independent navigation. Currently, GPS cannot be used underwater or indoors, and it is vulnerable to being blocked either by illegal jamming devices or solar weather activity. Industries reliant on GPS could stand to benefit significantly from a more precise and robust alternative.

Minister Pyne says quantum technologies have tremendous potential to lead to profound benefits in many sectors, including healthcare, communications, and Defence.

“Quantum technologies could bring game changing advantages for Defence, in areas including timing, sensing and navigation capabilities, communications and quantum computing,” he said.

“Supported by the Next Generation Technologies Fund, the goal of Quantum Technologies research is to inform Defence of the potential benefits and practical limitations of quantum technologies through studies and demonstrator systems within three years. I strongly encourage Australian industries and universities to contribute to this research with their innovative technologies and ideas.” Minister Pyne added.

The call for applications, along with further information can be found on the Defence Innovation website http://www.business.gov.au/cdic.

 [1] What is quantum computing?

At the subatomic level, the laws of classical physics no longer apply.  Particles can exist in more than one state at a time. Quantum computing utilises these quantum-mechanical phenomena, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform operations on data. Entanglement occurs when pairs or groups of particles are generated or interact in ways such that the quantum state of each particle (such as the polarisation of a photon) cannot be described independently of the others, even when the particles are separated by a large distance, while superposition states that any two (or more) quantum states can be added together and the result will be another valid quantum state.

A classical bit can be in one of two states, 0 or 1, whereas a single qubit  or quantum bit can represent a 1, a 0 or any quantum superposition of those two qubit states. This implies that qubits can store a lot more information than classical bits, using less energy. Only when we measure to find out what state it's actually in at any given, the qubit "collapses" into one of its possible states, giving the answer to problem. A quantum computer's ability to work in parallel would make it millions of times faster than any conventional computer.

Large-scale quantum computers would theoretically be able to solve certain problems much more quickly than any classical computers that use the best currently known algorithms. They could potentially solve in a matter of hours, complex problems that would take a digital supercomputer more than a lifetime to achieve.

[2] The NGTF together with the Defence Innovation Hub, forms the core of a new integrated defence innovation system for Australia, as outlined in the Government’s Defence Industry Policy Statement. NGTF has been allocated an investment of around AU$730 million till June 2026, while the Defence Innovation Hub will receive around AU$640 million over the decade to FY 2025–26. These two signature innovation research and development programs, together with the Centre for Defence Industry Capability (CDIC), deliver on the Government‘s AU$1.6 billion commitment to grow Australia's defence industry and innovation sector. Both NGTF and the Defence Innovation Hub are under the Department of Defence, while CDIC is under the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science.

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