Microsoft and University of Sydney team up on quantum computing

Lindsay James
Lindsay James
By Lindsay James on 03 August 2017
Microsoft and University of Sydney team up on quantum computing

The University of Sydney has signed a multi-year quantum computing partnership with Microsoft, creating an unrivalled setting and foundation for quantum research in Australia called Station Q.

According to a press release issued by the university, the long-term investment will focus on state-of-the-art equipment, allow the recruitment of new staff, help build the nation’s scientific and engineering talent and focus significant research funding into the university, assuring the nation a key role in the emerging quantum economy.

Led by scientific director David Reilly from the School of Physics and housed inside the US$150 million Sydney Nanoscience Hub, Station Q Sydney joins Microsoft’s other experimental research sites at Purdue University, Delft University of Technology, and the University of Copenhagen. There are only four labs of this kind in the world.

Sydney-born Professor Reilly – who completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University before returning to Australia – says that quantum computing is one of the most significant opportunities in the 21st century, with the potential to transform the global economy and society at large.

“The deep partnership between Microsoft and the University of Sydney will allow us to help build a rich and robust local quantum economy by attracting more skilled people, investing in new equipment and research and accelerate progress in quantum computing – a technology that we believe will disrupt the way we live, reshaping national and global security and revolutionising medicine, communications and transport,” Reilly said.

The focus of Reilly and his team at Station Q Sydney is to bring quantum computing out of the laboratory and into the real world where it can have genuine impact: “We’ve reached a point where we can move from mathematical modelling and theory to applied engineering for significant scale-up,” he explained.

Leveraging his research in quantum computing, Professor Reilly’s team has already demonstrated how spin-off quantum technologies can be used in the near-future to help detect and track early-stage cancers using the quantum properties of nanodiamonds.

Chief operating officer for Microsoft’s AI and Research Division David Pritchard said the partnership with the University of Sydney was important because Microsoft is looking forward to reaching the critical juncture where theory and demonstration need to segue and be complemented by systems-level abstraction and applied engineering efforts focused on scaling.

“There’s always an element of risk when you are working on projects with the potential to make momentous and unprecedented impact; we’re at the inflection point now where we have the opportunity to do that,” Pritchard said.

Microsoft architect Douglas Carmean characterised Microsoft’s ambitious goals for quantum computing as necessarily intensified and augmented through collaboration with the world’s leading universities. “It was only 40 years ago that the computing revolution really took hold, realising Microsoft’s vision for personal computers to be on every desktop; Microsoft is now focused on what we see as potentially even more impactful – making the quantum leap,” he said. “Our significant investment in quantum computing is a collaborative effort between Microsoft and academia and this is what will ultimately accelerate the transition from pure research to the development of useful quantum machines.”

 

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