UNSW Sydney Vice-Chancellor and President Ian Jacobs, far right, stands with (from left) Mathieu Weiss of CNES, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, during an event at Kirribilli House/ Credit: UNSW

UNSW Sydney Vice-Chancellor and President Ian Jacobs, far right, stands with (from left) Mathieu Weiss of CNES, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, during an event at Kirribilli House/ Credit: UNSW

UNSW collaborating with French organisations for solar energy and remote sensing research

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney has signed new agreements with two French scientific organisations to bolster cooperation over renewable energy innovation and environmental research.

Agreements were signed with the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France’s largest government research organisation and the Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES), the French Space Agency.

In addition, Australia’s first hardware quantum computing company, Silicon Quantum Computing Pty Ltd (SQC) entered into a collaboration with Commissariat à l'Energie Atomique et aux Energies Alternatives (the CEA; French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission), a French public government-funded research organisation.

UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Ian Jacobs said, “The successful partnerships UNSW enjoys with leading French science agencies place Australia and France at the forefront of collaborative research and innovation. [The] new agreements are further evidence of our commitment to work together on scientific advances which will have a positive global impact.”

Solar energy

Under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between UNSW Sydney and CNRS, the two organisations will facilitate the exchange of solar energy innovations through joint conferences, seminars and research projects. Potential topics include solar energy, storage of renewable energy and renewable energy integration.

The agreement reflects the commitments of Australia and France to address climate change through the COP21 Paris Agreement and support for the recently formed International Solar Alliance, headquartered in Delhi, India.

Professor Mark Hoffman, Dean of UNSW Engineering, said the agreement between UNSW and CNRS built on the existing relationship and emphasised both parties’ commitment to sustainable energy innovation.

“UNSW Sydney welcomes the continued collaborations with CNRS to promote cooperation in the field of solar energy,” Professor Hoffman said. “We believe this partnership will lead to new and more efficient ways of delivering solar energy to combat soaring energy demands across the globe and help fight climate change.”

Remote sensing

UNSW Canberra Space and CNES have a signed a Letter of Intent for a partnership to study a breakthrough remote-sensing satellite that will be capable of monitoring the health of the coral reefs near Australia and in the South Pacific.

The joint study is expected to pave the way for developing disruptive space technologies such as hyperspectral remote sensing, onboard processing, artificial intelligence and formation-flying technologies.

These technologies can support applications such as monitoring fresh and marine water quality and precision agricultural practices.

Professor Russell Boyce, Director of UNSW Canberra Space, said France and Australia had a strong legacy of space cooperation over 35 years and this project would see that relationship continue. This is the first project to come to fruition after two years of working with CNES toward the development of joint space missions.

“Our facility at UNSW Canberra enables spacecraft design engineers and scientists to rapidly design and determine the technical and economic viability of proposed space missions,” Professor Boyce said. “Our capability includes hyperspectral remote sensing and the onboard processing needed to turn measurements into useful information with real-world application.”

Quantum computing

SQC, whose shareholders include the Australian government, UNSW, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), Telstra and the NSW state government, signed a MOU to bring together French and Australian efforts to develop a quantum computer.

SQC was launched in August 2017, to drive the development and commercialisation of a 10-qubit quantum integrated circuit prototype in silicon by 2022, as the forerunner to a silicon-based quantum computer.

The MOU outlines plans to form a joint venture in silicon complementary-metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) quantum computing technology to accelerate and focus technology development, as well as to capture commercialisation opportunities.

The 2018 Australian of the Year and SQC director and founder, UNSW Scientia Professor Michelle Simmons, said, “We have phenomenal leadership in silicon quantum computing across a range of platforms, and SQC is now moving rapidly to commercialise all these technologies. It is very exciting that Professor Andrew Dzurak and his team have found a design, development and fabrication partner the quality of the CEA.”

Under Professor Dzurak’s stewardship, SQC has world-leading expertise in designing and demonstrating components of the quantum chip, based on silicon-CMOS technology.

In December 2017, Engineers at UNSW published a complete design for a quantum computer chip, that can be manufactured using mostly standard industry processes and components. The design was devised by Professor Andrew Dzurak, director of the Australian National Fabrication Facility at UNSW, and Dr Menno Veldhorst, lead author of the paper who was a research fellow at UNSW when the conceptual work was done.

A press release in March 2018 announced that a team of scientists led by Professor Simmons had demonstrated for the first time that two atom quantum bits or qubits, generated from precisely positioned individual atoms in silicon, can be made to “talk” to each other.

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