16 July 2010

The University of Queensland will lead two new Australian Research Council Centres of Excellence which have been awarded $36.4 million today to position Australia internationally in quantum technologies and to help solve environmental management problems.

• Professor Gerard Milburn will lead the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems which has received $24.5 million for an ambitious quantum research program involving partners in Australia, Austria, Canada, Germany, Singapore, Sweden, the UK and USA.

• Professor Hugh Possingham will lead the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED) which has received $11.9 million funding in the ARC round. The centre has research partners in Australia and Israel, Germany, Finland, South Africa, UK and the USA.

Professor Milburn said the future of technology lay in controlling the quantum world.

Although quantum principles are not fully understood, quantum technologies are already responsible for many advances in technology we already use including lasers and their many applications, magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs), modern micro circuitry, plus CDs and DVDs.

Promising quantum technologies include super quantum computers, ultra secure quantum codes to safeguard our communications, and even teleportation.

“The ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQuS) will deliver the building blocks of future quantum technologies and, critically, ensure Australian primacy in this endeavour,” Professor Milburn said.

“Three strategic research programs will target Quantum Measurement and Control; Synthetic Quantum Systems and Simulation; and Quantum-Enabled Sensors and Metrology.

“Within these programs, our Centre will exploit the deepest principles and resources of quantum physics to solve specific problems in engineering, chemistry, biology and medicine, stimulating the Australian scientific and engineering communities to exploit (and benefit from) transformative quantum devices.”

Professor Milburn said from the bronze age to the silicon age, the wealth of nations rose and fell on a tide of technological innovation.

“The new centre will produce novel devices and technologies through the engineering of quantum coherent systems, enabling powerful new applications across a range of fields,” he said.

It would develop a comprehensive framework for training and mentoring a new generation of scientists and engineers as part of an internationally-prominent, Australian-led research agenda.

Professor Possingham said despite facing the sixth global mass extinction of species, most conservation management was unevaluated and inefficient.

“The ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions will provide international research leadership in tackling the complex problems of environmental management and monitoring in an uncertain world,” he said.

“Working through six Australian universities and six international organisations, the Centre will forge new approaches and tools from ecology, mathematics, statistics, economics and the social sciences.

“It will lead the world in developing and delivering predictive models and decision-making approaches to improve outcomes in conservation management, habitat restoration, spatial planning and threat adaptation under a changing climate.”

Professor Possingham said Australia had the worst extinction record of any developed nation.

“Biodiversity underpins the cultural and economic prosperity of Australia, but our interventions to protect this natural inheritance are proving inadequate,” he said.

“Furthermore, our environmental management efforts have not been managed in such a way that allows us to learn from our investment decisions.

“The new centre will generate the fundamental knowledge and tools needed to make the best use of available resources for conservation.

“It will provide new techniques for assessing what resources are required and innovative ways for learning from our investment decisions.”

UQ Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Max Lu congratulated the two new UQ-led Centres of Excellence, which reflected on the high quality of the applications and the strengths and reputations of the Australian and international research partners.

Professor Lu said UQ researchers were also represented in three other successful ARC Centres of Excellence applications, including another centre looking at quantum technologies.
They are:

• The ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Wall Biology (Professor Mike Gidley) – centre funded for $19.25 million;
• The ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (Dr Peter Holbrook) - $24.25 million; and
• The ARC Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communications Technology (Associate Professor Tim Ralph and Professor Andrew White) - $24.5 million.

Media: Jan King 0413 601 248