Local quantum firms are being called up to design bespoke hardware that can be used by the New South Wales government to solve problems on Sydney’s creaking public transport network.
Transport for NSW issued a request for proposal for the “quantum technology innovation project” last month, with a view to signing multiple contracts with SMEs worth up to $1 million each.
“Going forward TfNSW wishes to procure longer-term, local research and development in quantum hardware,” it said in a document seeking “hybrid classical and/or quantum technology innovations”.
The move to procure hardware is the latest evolution of TfNSW’s quantum push, which began when it first showcased its vision to become a “global leader in transport quantum technology” in 2021.
The agency initially partnered with Sydney-based startup Q-CTRL to tackle network management and congestion problems but has since embarked on a series of other quantum computing pilots with other quantum leaders.
Following an expression of interest process that received 29 responses, TfNSW partnered with IBM, Microsoft, NEC (D-Wave) and Q-CTRL to source quantum software in December 2022. The firms won out over Hitachi, Mott MacDonald, NVIDIA and SQC on the shortlist.
To be delivered over the next 12 to 18 months, each tailored quantum hardware design to be delivered to TfNSW will be capable of solving transport challenges around data analysis, optimisation and modelling.
But is not expected that the hardware will be used in the short- to mid-term, with TfNSW targeting a five-year vision for future trials, in line with its Future Transport Technology Roadmap.
Representatives told an industry briefing last week that the agency is “looking for a vision for a physical hardware design” and not a “piece of hardware to start doing something”.
According to the RFP, TfNSW will retain any IP for the hardware. Firms may also be required to work with other third-parties, including those contracted to provide quantum hardware and software.
“TfNSW will share our knowledge and datasets, facilitate use case development for proof of concepts, trials, and prototypes and manage engagement with operations,” the RFP states.
The RFP will close on April 28. TfNSW plans to enter contracts with the successful respondents in June 2023
Last month, Q-CTRL founder and chief executive Professor Michael Biercuk told InnovationAus.com that one of the best ways governments can support the sector is buy buying quantum computers.
This approach has been adopted in Germany, with the government recently spending €208 million to buy prototype quantum computers based on ion traps from five different companies.
The federal government is preparing to release its first quantum strategy to help set the country up to reach its ambition of being a “big player, not a bit player”, according to Industry and Science minister Ed Husic.
Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.