Google has hired Australian researchers to build apps for its quantum computer. 

Google is opening a new outpost of its Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab in Sydney, which will partner with four Australian universities to develop potentially world-changing applications for quantum computers.

Google announced last November that it had hired researchers at the University of NSW, the University of Sydney, Macquarie University and the University of Technology Sydney (UTS)  as part of its $1 billion, five-year Digital Future Initiative.

Google’s quantum computer is currently limited to just 72 quantum bits (qubits) of processing power, but hundreds of thousands, possibly even millions of qubits will be needed for a finished computer. 

A larger-scale quantum computer should make certain types of computation vastly faster than the fastest supercomputers on the planet.

Algorithms that might take years to run on a classical computer, could be completed in minutes on a quantum computer with sufficient qubits. The mind-bending amount of quantum mathematical processing power could render current encryption algorithms obsolete overnight. 

While any fully-fledged quantum computer is decades away, the Australian scientists are already working on industrial applications for existing quantum algorithms.

In the meantime, Google will be focusing on the low hanging fruit of “noisy intermediate-scale quantum” (NISQ) algorithms, which could make the technology useful even in its infancy. 

NISQ algorithms typically require fewer than 100 qubits to operate, and focus on physical-world applications such as modelling molecules or the exotic states of matter. 

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley, says the collaboration is “a step in building Australia’s quantum industry here”.

“Having Google’s investment in Australian quantum science is a testament to the world-class research that has been supported by the Australian Research Council for over two decades,” she said.