Author : Sameer Patil

Originally Published Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) Published on Apr 30, 2024

This commentary provides deep insights into the rapid collaboration that is taking place between India and Australia. It also delves into its implications for the future.

The great potential of India-Australia quantum collaboration

A global race is underway to unlock the transformative potential of quantum technology, the next major leap in human innovation. Governments around the world are strategically investing in research and development, while big tech firms are pouring resources and talent into making the second quantum revolution a reality. The technology will offer a range of new computing, communications and sensing capabilities, which have implications for civilian and military sectors.  

Though quantum technology is still in its nascent stages, its possibilities are vast, and synergy through international collaboration is critical to unlocking them. The bilateral cooperation between India and Australia has great potential in this domain. Both countries have become major players in the quantum tech race, making significant strides in research, development and application, and the collaborative projects established between them so far are promising. 

Though quantum technology is still in its nascent stages, its possibilities are vast, and synergy through international collaboration is critical to unlocking them. 

Domestic initiatives by India and Australia  

India launched the Quantum-enabled Science and Technologies initiative in 2019, which was followed by the US$1.2 billion National Mission on Quantum Technologies and Applications, focusing on aerospace engineering, weather prediction, secure communications and cybersecurity. Although this mission is just getting off the ground, it has spurred interest in India’s tech ecosystem, driving it to build locally developed applications to solve real-world problems.  

Several scientific and academic establishments across India have taken the initiative to establish dedicated in-house facilities and labs. These include the I-HUB Quantum Technology Foundation at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, and a quantum technology lab at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru. Major corporations like Samsung, IBM, and Tech Mahindra are collaborating with them. The Indian military, with an eye on future defence and security needs, has also established a quantum computing lab to realise the potential of quantum key distribution, communication and computing. 

Australia has unveilled several new initiatives, too. While its official National Quantum Strategy was launched in 2023, its pioneering research efforts stretch back much further. Australia has already produced more than 2,500 PhDs in the field, solidifying the country’s position as a front-runner in quantum technology research and application. Last year, scientists at Sydney-based Silicon Quantum Computing built the first integrated silicon quantum computer chip, the result of two decades of research. 

Australia has unveilled several new initiatives, too. While its official National Quantum Strategy was launched in 2023, its pioneering research efforts stretch back much further.

The 2023 strategy focuses on building infrastructure, raising a skilled workforce and developing quantum standards that align with Australian national interests. It seeks to do this through collaboration with the quantum industry, driving commercialisation to incentivise the growth of quantum use cases, creating pipelines for investment in industry-ready quantum technologies and fostering innovation.  

 India-Australia collaboration 

The India-Australia collaboration on quantum technology draws on the synergy of these national initiatives. At present, it is happening within the larger framework of cyber and cyber-enabled critical technologies, which also encompasses artificial intelligence and robotics. 

The Australia-India Strategic Research Fund is one example. It opens doors for institutions in both countries to collaborate on research projects, such as the Centre for Quantum Computing at the University of New South Wales and IISc Bengaluru, which are tackling the problem of noise in quantum electronic devices. This has led to the discovery of a new state of matter, the development of new techniques for producing atomic-scale germanium and silicon transistors, and the repeated production of quantum electronic devices with the lowest levels of electrical noise to date. 

Collaboration across the private sector has been on the rise as well. Infosys has partnered with Australian quantum cybersecurity firm QuintessenceLabs to create a quantum random number generator which can work with classical encryption systems, thereby significantly amplifying their cybersecurity capabilities. It is also working with Amazon Web Services, QuintessenceLabs and QCWare to set up Quantum Living Labs, which offers innovative solutions to clients by leveraging quantum computing technology. Another example is HCL Technologies, which has collaborated with Sydney Quantum Academy to provide students with quantum technology education and R&D opportunities. 

Collaboration across the private sector has been on the rise as well. Infosys has partnered with Australian quantum cybersecurity firm QuintessenceLabs to create a quantum random number generator which can work with classical encryption systems, thereby significantly amplifying their cybersecurity capabilities.

The research communities in both countries are also working together. Through the Australia-India Cyber and Critical Technology Partnership, the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi has partnered with the Centre for International Security Studies of the University of Sydney to frame accords and guidelines for the ethical use of quantum technologies. This requires a multi-stakeholder, multi-disciplinary approach that combines social sciences, philosophy and pure sciences. Indeed, for the past two years, the two partners have mobilised experts from universities, businesses, governments and think tanks through virtual workshops and symposia to explore the societal, ethical and geopolitical ramifications of quantum innovations. They are now working to finalise and distribute a digital book and a documentary film about these topics. 

Australia’s pioneering work in quantum technology and its growing partnership with India present a golden opportunity for the two nations to leapfrog ahead in this critical field. By pooling resources, expertise and ambitions, they can unlock the extraordinary potential of quantum technology, benefiting not only themselves but the entire Indo-Pacific region.


This commentary originally appeared on Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

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Author

Sameer Patil

Sameer Patil

Dr Sameer Patil is Senior Fellow, Centre for Security, Strategy and Technology and Deputy Director, ORF Mumbai. His work focuses on the intersection of technology ...

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