Australia will strive to build the first error-corrected quantum computer within the decade – a huge and expensive goal that, if achieved, would put the country at the forefront of the new technology.
The federal government is backing the ambition in its National Quantum Strategy, to be announced in Canberra on Wednesday, with up to $1 billion set aside from the National Reconstruction Fund for investing in critical technologies such as quantum.
“That is a very ambitious goal,” said Professor Stephen Bartlett, a leading quantum computing scientist at the University of Sydney.
“It’s very ambitious to say we might be the first to do that, because that is in many ways the main game. Companies around the world, governments around the world, are trying to do that.”
Quantum computers use the properties of quantum physics to store data and perform computations, and are believed to be able to solve certain problems much quicker than a standard computer.
Several companies, including Google, have developed quantum computers that can string together multiple qubits, the basic unit of information in quantum computing.
But no one has developed a large quantum computer with error correction, which is Australia’s newly set goal. Current quantum computers struggle with errors, and as they get more powerful, more errors develop. An error-corrected quantum computer is the field’s holy grail.
“It is going to be able to solve the big computational problems with quantum computing,” said Bartlett. “But if we’re serious about that ambition, it’s going to take the whole nation getting behind it to realise it.”