Quantum chemistry panel at the 2023 conference, with Dr Pedro Costa (Transport for NSW), Prof Jared Cole (RMIT University), Dr Nicole Holzmann (Riverlane) and Prof Ivan Kassal (University of Sydney) [SQA]

QUANTUM ENTREPRENEURS and researchers in Australia are attracting growing attention internationally, most recently from the defence sector. Just look at the line-up of Quantum Australia 2024.

The country’s foremost quantum industry event – bringing together industry, academia, and government – is on again from 20-22 February 2024. Sold out two years in a row, it attracts hundreds of delegates from around the world and this year will highlight a burgeoning attention from the defence sector – partly driven by the new AUKUS defence pact between Australia, UK and US – as well as the blossoming enthusiasm in Australia’s technology savvy and thought leadership.

Created by Sydney Quantum Academy (SQA), a joint venture between four research universities and the NSW Government, the conference was first staged in 2022.

“Quantum represents a fundamental change at the heart of all information technology,” said Prof Peter Turner, CEO of SQA. “It will permeate scores of industries, so it is a fantastic opportunity for a country like Australia to be key player in a fast-emerging global industry.

Prof Peter Turner, SQA's CEO [SQA]

“It’s important we use every opportunity to help build this high skill, high technology sector and convert Australia’s deep expertise in the field into great outcomes with global potential. Conferences like Quantum Australia are essential part of this. This year, thanks to the AUKUS pact, there’s a lot of interest from the defence and security sector.”

Top government officials

The program includes top government officials, such as Minister for Industry and Science, The Hon Ed Husic MP; Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Cathy Foley; U.S. Department of Homeland Security under-secretary Dr Dimitri Kusnezov; NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Prof Hugh Durrant-Whyte; the head of quantum technologies at peak research funder UK Research and Innovation, Roger McKinlay; and the Chair of the Strategic Advisory Board of the £$2.5 billion  UK National Quantum Technology Program, Prof Sir Peter Knight.

“You’ve got some of the very best research groups in the world in Australia, producing research students and post-doctorates, and you have done for decades — you’ve been pioneers in quantum science,” said Prof Knight,who is leading a British delegation to Sydney. “Start-ups are hunting for talent in Australia because you’ve been the major engine of providing some of the brightest young people [and world leaders] in the field.”

Dr Kusnezov, the Under Secretary for Science and Technology at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said technologies like quantum computing bring unprecedented uncertainty. “As we navigate this unchartered territory, the key challenge ispreparing for an uncertain future. At the intersection of innovation, the Australian quantum sector serves as a valuable collaborator, contributing to the United States’ quantum strategy initiatives and shaping a future where the promise of technology aligns with our shared values and aspirations.

Quantum entrepreneurs

Among the leading overseas quantum entrepreneurs at the meeting will be Dr Stephanie Simmons, founder of Canadian quantum computing start-up Photonic Inc; Dr David Gunnarsson, Chief Technology Officer of Finland’s Bluefors; Dr Si-Hui Tan, who heads research at Singapore’s Horizon Quantum Computing; Dr Chris Wood, Chief Technology Officer of U.S. quantum start-up Infleqtion; Dr Steve Brierley, CEO & Founder of Riverlane, a UK company developing a self-correcting operating system for quantum computers; and Dr Joseph Emerson of Keysight Technologies, a U.S.-based provider of design, emulation, and test equipment for electronics.

Prof Sir Peter Knight (UK National Quantum Technology Program); Dr Stephanie Simmons (Photonic Inc); Dr Dimitri Kusnezov (U.S. Department of Homeland Security); Dr Si-Hui Tan (Horizon Quantum Computing) and Dr David Gunnarsson (Bluefors)

As well as U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Dr Kusnezov, defence players include Andrew Seedhouse, Chief of Cyber Intelligence & National Security Divisions at Australia's Defence Science and Technology GroupProf Andre Luiten, Managing Director of Adelaide-based quantum sensing and defence start-up QuantX; Dr Giuseppina Dall’Armi-Stoks, Research Leader Electro Optics Sensing and Electromagnetic Warfare at DSTG; and Prof Brant Gibson, Deputy Director of the Sir Lawrence Wackett Defence and Aerospace Centre at RMIT University.

There’s a strong line-up of key Australian quantum entrepreneurs, such as Prof Michelle Simmons, CEO of Silicon Quantum Computing (and 2023 winner of Australia’s Prime Minister’s Prize for Science); Prof Michael Biercuk, CEO of quantum software start-up Q-CTRL; Prof Tom Stace, CEO and co-founder of Analog Quantum Circuits, the Brisbane-based superconducting quantum technology start-up; and A/Prof Chris Ferrie, co-founder of Eigensystems.

Industry heavyweights

Other industry heavyweights speaking include Bill Bartee, co-founder and managing partner of Main Sequence, the deep tech investment fund founded by CSIRO with more than $1 billion invested; Dr Christophe Jurczak, managing partner at Quantonation, the French-American early stage venture capital firm focusing on quantum technologies; and Michael Brett, Seattle-based Worldwide Go-To-Market Strategy Lead for Quantum Technologies at Amazon Web Services.

It wouldn’t be a quantum conference without an insight into the latest science and technology. Speakers include noted research leaders like Prof Gavin Brennen, Director of the Macquarie Centre for Quantum Engineering at Macquarie University in Sydney; Prof Michael Bremner, Director of the Centre for Quantum Software and Information at the University of Technology Sydney; Prof Jingbo Wang, Director of the Quantum Information, Simulation and Algorithms research hub at the University of Western Australia in Perth; Prof Andrea MorelloScientia Professor of Quantum Engineering at UNSW Sydney; and Prof Andrew Doherty of the Sydney Quantum Theory Lab at the University of Sydney.

The Hon Ed Husic MP (Minister for Industry and Science); Prof Michelle Simmons (Silicon Quantum Computing); Prof Michael Biercuk (Q-CTRL); Dr Cathy Foley (Australia’s Chief Scientist); Prof Andre Luiten (QuantX); and Dr Nadia Court (Semiconductor Sector Service Bureau)
The Hon Ed Husic MP (Minister for Industry and Science); Prof Michelle Simmons (Silicon Quantum Computing); Prof Michael Biercuk (Q-CTRL); Dr Cathy Foley (Australia’s Chief Scientist); Prof Andre Luiten (QuantX); and Dr Nadia Court (Semiconductor Sector Service Bureau)

There’s also Prof Dieter Kranzlmüller, Chairman of Germany’s Leibniz Supercomputing Centre; Dr Jane Fitzpatrick, CEO of the Australian National Fabrication FacilityMark Stickells, CEO of the Pawsey Supercomputing Research Centre; Dr Nadia Court, Director of the Semiconductor Sector Service BureauProf Kavan Modi of the Monash Quantum Information Science at Monash University; Prof Elanor Huntington, Executive Director of Digital and National Facilities and Collections, CSIRO; A/Prof Mary Jacqueline Romero from the University of Queensland; and Dr Sushmita Ruj, Engineering Lead at the UNSW Institute for Cybersecurity.

See the full list of speakers for Quantum Australia 2024 here. Or you can find out more about the conference, and register to attend, by clicking here.

Such a complex conference – involving luminaries from across research, business and government – could not have been possible without the considerable support of sponsors, particularly platinum sponsors like NEC Australia, the Defence Science and Technology Group, and Keysight Technologies. Gold sponsors include the CSIRO, Oxford Instruments, Rohde & Schwarz, Bluefors, PsiQuantum, Innovate UK, and the Federal Department of Industry Science and Resources.

Quantum careers

Career opportunities will abound at the Quantum Australia Careers Fair, with more than 11 companies lining up to snag emerging talent [S
Career opportunities will abound at the Quantum Australia Careers Fair, with more than 11 companies lining up to snag emerging talent [SQA]

With Australia’s emerging quantum sector projected to be worth $2.2 billion and employ almost 9,000 Australians by 2030, the race is on to acquire and retain talent. Hence, the conference will also feature a Careers Fair on the morning of the first day, free to students and educators, where Australia’s emerging talent will hear from a careers-focused panel discussion.

Exhibitors looking for new talent or showcasing their training and career development opportunities at the fair include Amazon Web Services, Australian Defence Force, CSIRO, Quintessence Labs, Diraq, ARC Centre of Excellence in Quantum Biotechnology, KPMG, Bluefors, Australian National Fabrication Facility, Heavy Ion Accelerators and IBM Quantum.

Throughout the program, more than 60 postgraduate and early career researchers will showcase their research via poster sessions. A $500 People’s Choice Award will be awarded to the poster garnering the most votes from attendees. Selected authors will also take part in a five-minute ‘Pitch your Research’ session on the main stage, with a panel of judges awarding $500 to best pitch, and $250 to the runner-up.

For more information on the Quantum Careers Fair, and to register your place, click here.

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