Defence has gathered some of the biggest names in quantum computing to explore the future of this transformational technology for Defence and national security.

Over two days at the Australian Academy of Science's Shine Dome in Canberra and virtually, more than 90 delegates from academia, industry and government joined the latest Emerging Disruptive Technology Assessment Symposium (EDTAS) to explore the potential impacts of quantum computing technologies for Defence.

The breadth of the quantum community was well represented, with participation from six countries, 10 Australian universities, 17 industry organisations and eight government departments.

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley, Professor Michelle Simmons from the University of NSW, Dr Jay Gambetta from IBM Quantum in the US and Professor Rodney Van Meter from Keito University in Japan were just some of quantum experts to participate.

In welcoming delegates to the symposium, Australia’s Chief Defence Scientist, Professor Tanya Monro, acknowledged the potential of quantum computing to fundamentally transform Defence capability and the national economy, noting that quantum computing has been designated as a national critical technology.

“I’m very focused on making sure that being designated as a critical technology doesn’t mean restrictions and hurdles,” Professor Munro said.

“If something is a critical technology there’s clearly going to be ways we have to handle it to make sure that we protect Australia’s interests.

“But there equally should be great opportunities for support, investment, et cetera to help make sure there’s not a disincentive for our researchers and innovators and entrepreneurs to work in areas that are designated as critical.”

In her keynote address to the symposium, Dr Foley recognised Australia’s place as a global leader in key areas of quantum computing research. While Australia comprised only 0.3 per cent of the world’s population, it was conducting more than 4 per cent of the world’s quantum research.

“We have this amazing community here which is very large considering the size of our population, it’s very focused, it’s very coordinated,” Dr Foley said.

She noted the high standard of the research, in particular.

“If you look at, say, a measure of citations, as they’re normalised in this particular area, we are 60 per cent above the global normal. That’s saying we’re doing high-quality work,” she said.

A key component of the symposium was the futures workshops, which generated innovative concepts for future quantum computing technologies and capabilities.

Syndicate groups comprised diverse representation from across industry, government and academia to ensure cross-pollination of ideas and group diversity.

To encourage conceptual thinking, participants were presented with a hypothetical scenario in which a solar flare had disrupted Australia’s essential services and national systems.

Participants had to consider how quantum computing might be used to prepare for and to protect against such an event.

Fully funded by the Next Generation Technologies Fund, the EDTAS series identifies novel capability concepts for Defence beyond 2040, and helps to uncover the important research challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.