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  • Science minister Ed Husic on quantum: ‘Have the ambition to be a big player, not a little player’

Science minister Ed Husic on quantum: ‘Have the ambition to be a big player, not a little player’

We believe in our quantum ecosystem and its role in Australia’s economic prosperity and national security.

Australia has long had an outrageous impact on quantum research. The people who trained in quantum in Australia are now in leading positions in research, industry and government here and around the world.

When it comes to quantum technology, we should have the ambition to be a big player, not a small player.

And while we’re all here to talk about quantum technologies, we can’t lose sight of the fact that the real challenge and opportunity for us is how we integrate quantum into other industrial sectors of the economy. How we capitalize on our lead in quantum research and maintain our position as one of the world’s leading clusters of expertise in quantum technologies.

These technologies will have significant transformative impacts on society – part of the challenge is about how we can make this part of the norm in Australia, and in a way that serves our national interests.

This is an important part of this government’s agenda: to become a forward-looking and resilient economy.

We need to take advantage of technologies and new ways of working to support Australian industries that can provide high-paying jobs, in areas such as manufacturing, robotics, artificial intelligence, renewable energy and emerging areas such as quantum.

Australia has had an edge in quantum for a while now. Since 2003, we have funded eight Centers of Excellence through the Australian Research Council to investigate specific quantum questions and problems.

These centers enable universities and research firms to collaborate with industry to investigate specific problems over a longer period of time than normal government research funding cycles.

Last November, for example, we announced $35 million in seven-year funding for a Center of Excellence to develop quantum technologies that can observe biological processes.

This would transform our understanding of life, enabling devices such as wearable brain imaging and high-speed protein sensors.

The Center of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at the University of Queensland is working on optical quantum computing systems.

The Department of Defense is investing in quantum technologies and other priority areas through the $1.2 billion Next Generation Technologies Fund.

And states are also accelerating their investments. It was great to hear about Breakthrough Victoria’s recent investments in Quantum Brilliance and in a Cold Quanta partnership with Swinburne University.

And universities also invest themselves. It was great to see the University of Sydney announce an investment in a Future Qubit Foundry, enabling students to design, build and test qubit technology.

As a result, our quantum capabilities are world-leading, giving Australia a clear competitive advantage.

For Australia alone, conservative estimates suggest that quantum computing, communications and sensing could become a nearly $6 billion industry, creating more than 19,000 jobs by 2045.

If technologies mature and are adopted faster than these conservative predictions, quantum technologies could add more than $9 billion to Australia’s GDP by 2045 and create more than 50,000 jobs in total.

Transforming and revitalizing the industry is exactly what we aim for with our National Reconstruction Fund (NRF).

The opportunity for Australia is immense. Now we need to take advantage of this momentum and chart a clear path. It takes a national vision of how we will mobilize to seize our quantum future.

Determine the strategy

I mentioned the National Quantum Strategy. The strategy will project the Australian Government’s vision of having a thriving quantum industry and being at the forefront of global technology innovation.

The strategy is based on extensive consultation with the quantum industry and the wider community. Many of you here today and online have submitted submissions, attended roundtables, working groups and town halls.

You can be assured that the strategy reflects and addresses the main issues raised during the consultations.

We need an ecosystem where there is enough capital for companies to grow, and fast. As well as access to supporting infrastructure to support R&D and onshore production.

To meet these needs – and as part of the government’s wider drive to become creators, not just consumers, of major advancements in technology – we are working to establish the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) as soon as possible .

This will support, diversify and transform Australia’s industry and economy to help create safe, well-paid jobs, secure future prosperity and drive sustainable economic growth.

The NRF will provide funding (including loans, guarantees and equity) to drive value-added investments and develop capacity in seven priority areas. This includes supporting key activation capabilities.

The government has earmarked $1 billion in NRF funding to expand Australia’s critical technology capability in areas such as quantum.

We want the growth capital to be made available here, to build local capacity. You can’t get a better signal.

We are working hard to improve the diversity of our STEM workforce and ensure a pipeline of skilled workers to support quantum science and technology.

A top 20

At last count, Australia has over 20 quantum related companies in Australia. This number is growing as Australian innovators make new discoveries and find ways to commercialize them.

Companies like Quantum Brilliance, which is pioneering diamond-based quantum computers and building miniature computers that can operate at room temperature.

Quantum Brilliance is now partnering with the Pawsey supercomputer in Western Australia to host the world’s first diamond quantum accelerator.

Vikram Sharma’s QuintessenceLabs has developed quantum true random number generators that produce high-quality cryptographic keys for cybersecurity. It already sells quantum-based cybersecurity solutions to leading companies worldwide.

Q-CTRL, led by Mike Biercuk, has developed quantum control software products used by leading global companies such as IBM and Rigetti. The company’s success has seen the team grow from 80 to approximately 120 teams in Sydney, Los Angeles and Berlin.

And I’ve seen this person here, Michelle Simmons and the team at Silicon Quantum Computing at SQC last June, a standout innovator. In June 2022, SQC announced that it had created the world’s first integrated quantum computer circuit – that is, a circuit containing the elements of a classical quantum-scale computer chip.

They are not alone among Australian quantum computing excellence. Andrew Durak’s Diraq is quickly making waves.

And PsiQuantum, whose co-founders include two Australians in Jeremy O’Brien and Terry Rudolph, is currently valued at more than $5 billion AUD for their approach to building the world’s first quantum computer.

Our SMEs are expanding overseas – and global heavyweights like Google are collaborating with Australian research institutions to push the quantum frontier.

Quantum Brilliance, Q-CTRL and Nomad Atomics are setting up offices in Germany and there is more collaboration with British companies.

Involved worldwide

Quantum is by nature a global endeavor. No country can, as it were, hope to take control of the market. Only by working together can we unlock the full potential of quantum.

To this end, we continue to build relationships with international partners to create opportunities for Australian researchers and companies.

For example, in November 2021, Australia signed a joint declaration of cooperation in quantum technologies with the US. This statement will help bring our countries closer together and provide opportunities to collaborate and bring use cases to life.

We will use other international partnerships to further collaborate and advance quantum investments and capabilities.

I was recently in the United States and was struck by the number of Australians there with leading scientific capabilities and advanced technological know-how. In my first speech as Minister of Industry and Science, I promised to lure them home.

Come back expats

So here I am again inviting expats to come back to Australia. We are making Australia a nation of makers, not just buyers. We build things.

We’ve built sensors that are used to upgrade radars, we’ve started optimizing traffic in our cities using quantum, and we’re building chips that go into space.

The potential for growth and innovation over the next decade for technologies such as quantum is enormous.

They are also technologies where international competition is likely to be fiercest – and where the benefits of collaboration are potentially greatest.

Quantum computing will boost our ability to innovate across industries, creating new industries in the process.

Quantum sensors can enable faster and more accurate civil engineering projects, saving us time on infrastructure activities such as roadworks.

Quantum encryption can help protect our government, businesses and society.

However, successfully exploiting the extraordinary potential of quantum will not be a walk in the park.

Research and staff development efforts need to be coordinated; negotiated roadblocks.

Collaborations between individuals, institutions and countries will need to be encouraged and facilitated.

We have the building blocks ready – and soon we will have an overarching national vision and strategy to cover them.

  • This is an edited excerpt from a speech by Science and Innovation Minister Ed Husic at the Quantum Australia conference in Sydney on February 22.


Shreya has been with australiabusinessblog.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider australiabusinessblog.com, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

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