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Australia urged to invest in quantum computing ahead of future pandemics

Quantum approaches could play a significant role in developing treatments for any future pandemics more efficiently, improving the calculations that have to be made in chemical research and helping bringing new treatments to market.

“Advances in computing tech have given enormous practical advances in medicine and we think quantum has a role in drug discoveries,” Professor Biercuk said.

These types of technologies are incredibly fragile, however, and Q-CTRL is in the business of offering technology solutions to industry that help stabilise quantum computing processes.

The company, which was spun out of the University of Sydney, has been backed by leading local venture capital firms including Square Peg, which led a $22 million funding round in the business last year.

The CSIRO released a road map for quantum computing investment this year, though much of the research and development work being done in the sector is occurring offshore.

“There is not very much in the Australian market at this time… we are almost 100 per cent export-focused in our company,” Professor Biercuk said.

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Over recent months, industry experts right across the technology sector have been championing the importance of targeting investment in research and development projects that could help Australia face future pandemics better and export skills in a post-COVID economy. This includes expanding vaccine manufacturing facilities and ensuring research and development incentives support the biotech industry.

A report on COVID-19 from the Medical Technology Association of Australia said industry should be brought to the table to work with governments on any future pandemic planning.

“Any new or updated national pandemic preparedness plan must recognise the critical role of the medtech industry,” the report said.

Federal and state governments have contributed to a range of quantum computing projects over the past five years as researchers race to make quantum computers a reality.

The path could take hundreds of millions of dollars and many years, Professor Biercuk said, much like the pharmaceutical sector needs long-term investors to survive.

“The investment needed is actually similar to that for drug development. It means the investors we have attracted have a very long-term approach to this.”

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