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  • 28/11/2018: That was fun! This morning a score or so of EQUS folk attended a Parliamentary Friends of Science breakfast on quantum technology. There were speeches by Andrew and Australian of the Year Michelle Simmons, with great questions and comments following, and before and after the room was full of parliamentarians and their staff, policymakers, scientists, and engineers all happily chatting away. A great way to communicate the importance of quantum technology for our society!

Andrew's Speech

Good morning. I’d like to start by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet today, the Ngunnawal peoples, and pay my respects to Elders past and present.

Thank you all very much for coming and attending such an early function. Before Michelle and I speak, I'd like to call out the young quantum researchers in the room. Please put your hand up! For the non-quantum folk in the room, if you have any questions about anything Michelle or I say today, please feel free to ask the person closest to you! So ... no pressure.

Why are we here? I'm going to give two answers to that.

Scientifically, we're here because 132 years ago, we looked carefully at light from the sun going through a prism, and noticed there were colours missing from the rainbow. Spoiler alert: we now know this is due to those colours being absorbed by atoms in the sun, but at the time the missing colours were very, very puzzling. And finding out why they were missing, and how that happened, was a 50 year journey, finishing in 1932—the year the Bodyline tour started in England!—with the the completion of quantum mechanics, the theory that describes the microscopic world. Now that's not so long ago, my grandparents all lived through and remember the bodyline tour—indeed, that's where I first learned the phrase pommy bastard, but I digress.

So in my grandparents lifetime, one part of quantum theory—wave-particle duality—was responsible for what I'm going to call the first quantum revolution. This is the revolution that made possible the very fabric and machinery of our modern society, be it photocopiers to disseminate information, lasers for cutting jeans, welding cars, curing eyes, or scanning groceries, X-rays and MRI for scanning in our bodies, solar cells for harnessing energy, and of course integrated circuits that powered our phones. Which, according to my kids, is the only piece of technology that matters. (Since we have the Chief Scientist from CSIRO in the room I just want to proudly note that the phones include WiFi, which invented in a collaboration between CSIRO and Australian universities:I'd like to see it on the $5 note so that every school kid knows about it!, much more important than the Queen).

But for all our amazing technological progress, the last few decades has seen us hit a wall in numerous technologies, be it processor speed—it stopped doubling a decade ago—in MRI resolution, in solar cell efficiency, battery lifetime. In some of these fields this limit even has a name: the quantum limit. Now the good news is that this wall is illusory, and an opportunity: if we use all the aspects of QM, we can do things that until now have been impossible. These features are superposition—the fact that real objects really can be in two places at once; entanglement—the weird correlations between quantum objects that upset Einstein; and measurment—just looking at quantum things can change them utterly. Technologies that use these quantum features are what we call quantum technologies and we are, right now, living through the second quantum revolution.

Quantum technologies offer us better—and in many cases, new—capabilities in imaging, in sensing, in simulating and solving difficult problems, in timing and measurement, in communicating, and even in discovering new science. Quantum technologies will be transformative in every corner of society. I was at a QT trade show in London earlier this month and the floor was divided into companies from various economic sectors: Defence and Security. Transport. Oil and Gas. Internet of Things. Communications and Future Networks. Space. Finance.The Quantum Economy. Healthcare Technologies. Navigation. Civil Engineering. Aerospace. There's not a lot missing from that list! In this room we have experts in some of these areas—for example, Dr Sally Shrapnel is looking at quantum technologies in medicine, Prof. Gavin Brennen has been looking at quantum attacks on bitcoin, and how to protect against them—and across Australia we have experts in all of them.

So that's why we're excited, and that's one reason we're all here. But I ask again, why are *we* here?

We're here in this room because Australian governments, federal and state, have invested in curiousity-driven research for decades. The very first proposal for making a logic gate for quantum computing, the very first anywhere in the world, came from Professor Gerard Milburn in Queensland in 1989. At the time, the proposal was seen as science fiction—indeed, even one of the expert referees said of it "if you fund only one piece of research in Australia this year, make sure, it's not this one". Yet just over a decade later Australia had major investments via the Australian Research Council, with a Special Research Centre in silicon and photonic quantum computing, and large grants on cold-atom technologies and squeezed light.

We were a decade ahead of the rest of the world, and indeed became the exemplar. The Australian approach is both competiive and cooperative—a bit like the local netball or footie comp—bringing together a critical mass of people passionately interested in tackling difficult problems. Our approach has been copied—in Canada, in the UK, in the Netherlands, in Germany, in Europe as a whole, and most recently in the US—with order of 1/2 to billion dollar investments in each of those in the last 2 years, and tens of billions in China.

Australia is well positioned to ride this new wave, with scientists and engineers in every mainland capital. We have four quantum-focussed national Centres of Excellence—EQUS; the Centre for Exciton Science, the Centre for Future Low-Energy Electronic Technologies, and the Centre for Quantum Computing and Communication Technology—and a fifth Centre, Ausgrav, suing quantum technology in their next generation of detectors. Australia has major quantum technology programs in Defence—the first round of which was announced this week—and in CSIRO, notably by Dr Cathy Foley, Chief Scientist, and her colleagues. And we have a generation of start-up and spin-off companies, of which I'm sure we will hear more later. Through all of these, and through new Masters of Quantum Engineering programs at universities starting next year, we are training the next generation of engineers, scientist, teachers, and entrepeneurs, making quantum literate citizens.

Internationally, our colleagues are beginning to engage in what they call "quantum readiness". They have moved on from briefing engineers, and scientists, and CTO's, all of whom are excited by and see the possibilities of quantum technologies, to briefing CEOs and CFOs in all sectors of the economy. They are walking in and having conversations along the lines of "here is what quantum technologies will mean for your sector, here are the timelines and the possibilities, and here we are as a resource. Think about what you need to do to be ready". In the coming tech revolution, everyone wants to be Apple, and no-one wants to be Nokia. Indeed some companies are doing this without prompting. ABB is a Swiss company with 34B annual revenue, 130,000 employees and who run facilities such as the power network in the UK, the Gotthard tunnel in Europe, the Ariadne space facility in South America, and thousands of other sites worldwide, including in Australia. They think on timescales of decades. So right now, they are transitioning all their communication electronics to be quantum computer proof, installing quantum random number generators, and are preparing their networks for when quantum communication and quantum sensors come online.

But our colleagues in the UK and Canada have gone even further. They see quantum technologies as key to the future prosperity and security of their countries. They have begun national quantum technology strategies coordinating across all sectors of society. This is the challenge and opportunity for those of us in the room today, to take our conversations and use them to move forward with a national strategy and vision to ensure Australia's prosperity and security. We started this revolution, and it is time for us to benefit from it.

And on that note, it is with great pleasure that I introduce a woman who literally needs no introduction, Prof. Michelle Simmons, the Australian of the Year. Michelle and I were colleagues in the Centre for Quantum Computer Technology for nearly 20 years, both starting our Australian postdocs back in 1999. I can tell you Michelle has not changed in that time: she has always been fiercely interested in pushing the envelope in quantum materials science, and a passionate advocate for quantum technology. ... Michelle!