“We’d love to stay here, but the caveat is that the Australian government is considering new export controls on quantum technology in a unilateral way, with the defence force asking for potential to control the technology as they wish,” he said.
“That would hobble the emerging quantum industry before it’s even had the chance to grow.
“The government has been pushing for more research commercialisation and we’re the perfect example of that … but we can’t be stymied by an overly aggressive defence which is reactive to international propaganda.”
Mr Biercuk first addressed a Senate committee on this issue in 2011 and at the time the government decided not to impose export controls on quantum technologies, but the issue has been back on the agenda since the US government’s Commerce Department flagged that it was considering implementing export controls on elements of quantum technology.
“I want to ensure the government understands there is a lack of technical scientific motivation behind the proposed controls,” Dr Biercuk said.
The Department of Defence did not respond to a request for comment before publication.
The entrepreneur, who migrated to Australia on a 457 visa in 2010, developed Q-CTRL’s technology in the University of Sydney’s quantum computing laboratory before founding the business in 2017. Dr Biercuk, who has a PhD in physics from Harvard, still leads the lab and remains a professor of quantum physics and quantum technology at the university.
Since then it has become one of the global leaders in the field and last year it was the only company outside of the US and Canada to be included in IBM’s network of start-ups working to advance the field and develop practical applications of the technology.
All of the company’s existing customers are in the US, including quantum computing companies Rigetti and Bleximo, as well as consulting firm Accenture. This was a key motivator for its offshore expansion.
The fresh funding round, which the start-up will announce at Quantum Tech Congress in Boston, comes on the back of a smaller seed round last year, the size of which was not revealed.
“Q-CTRL impressed us with their strategy. By providing infrastructure software to improve quantum computers for R&D teams and end users, they’re able to be a central player in bringing this technology to reality,” Square Peg investment partner Tushar Roy said.
“In Q-CTRL we found a rare combination of world-leading technical expertise with an understanding of customers, products and what it takes to build an impactful business.”
The funds will let Q-CTRL double its quantum engineering team from 25 people.
The start-up was one of the first to take advantage of the government’s global talent employer sponsored program (GTES) last year, having previously had roles advertised for quantum engineers that have not received a single applicant in 18 months.
Dr Biercuk said having a US office would let it access more talent, but he was a firm believer that Australia could be a world leader in this field if the policy environment remains conducive.
“Quantum research has been a shining example of research and development strength in Australia and it’s why I moved here in 2010,” he said.
“There’s no doubt this could be the opportunity for Australia to have a number of global unicorns. The research environment that exists here gives Australia a major advantage.
“It’s a once in a generation opportunity, possibly even once a century, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly.”
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