Quantum computing and low-power electronics researchers are among the big winners of a $283.5 million tranche of Government funds allocated this week.
The money falls under the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) Centres of Excellence (CoE) scheme, and will part-fund the creation of nine new CoEs based out of seven universities around the country.
All CoEs will begin operations in 2017, though for some this is an extension of funding rather than signifying the start of a completely new research project.
The winners were selected from a pool of almost 100 applications for the public funding, and – together – have also attracted $761 million in “support” from businesses and other organisations that stand to benefit from their research.
Two of the nine new CoEs will target the ongoing development of quantum computers.
Firstly, the University of Queensland will host an ARC CoE for Engineered Quantum Systems, using $31.9 million in public funding and $61.4 million in cash and in-kind contributions from partners.
UQ deputy vice-chancellor of research Professor Robyn Ward said the centre would have five Australian nodes and 18 partner organisations both domestic and international.
“This new centre will build on the impressive work of the first ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems which produced small-scale quantum systems for technological applications,” Ward said.
“Under the leadership of centre director Professor Andrew White, researchers will move beyond the lab towards practical prototypes and commercial applications, including material simulators, diagnostic technologies and geo-survey tools.”
University of Sydney Professor Andrew Doherty will be the UQ-based centre’s deputy-director.
In addition, the Government is also putting more money behind the UNSW-based ARC CoE for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology (CQC2T).
It will use its $33.7 million allocation to build quantum processors “to potentially transform all industries dependent on computers”.
CQC2T director and UNSW Scientia Professor Michelle Simmons said she was “absolutely delighted” the federal government had awarded seven more years of funding “to ensure quantum information research in Australia remained world-leading.”
“This [funding] will bring together eight Australian universities and more than 35 international partners and end users in the fields of quantum computing and quantum communication – technology that will prove to be totally disruptive over the next decade and beyond,” she said.
In December 2015, the Government announced a $26 million investment in CQC2T’s research as part of its National Innovation and Science Agenda.
The Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Telstra have also pledged to tip $10 million each into the research.
Outside of the quantum sphere, the Government has chosen to tip $33.4 million into an ARC CoE in Future Low-Energy Electronics Technologies, based out of Monash University.
It “will use the new science of atomically thin materials such as graphene to enable revolutionary new computing devices with ultra-low power consumption”, and will be led by ARC Laureate Fellow Professor Michael Fuhrer.
Fuhrer said the centre “involves participation from key Victorian research institutions, including RMIT University and Swinburne University, as well as nodes at the Australian National University, the University of New South Wales, the University of Wollongong, and the University of Queensland.”
Sixteen overseas research institutes and universities are also partners.
“The new centre addresses the challenge of reducing the energy used in information and communications technology, up to 10 percent of electrical energy use in industrialised countries, and growing rapidly,” Fuhrer said.
“The centre will place Australia at the forefront of the next electronics industry through development of new low-energy computing technologies.
“It will also generate opportunities for the Victorian economy through knowledge transfer and industry relevant training for the future electronics sector.”