A $111 million shot in the arm for the nation’s first coordinated strategy in quantum technologies fell short of expectations for the industry’s peak digital advocacy body.
The Federal Government’s funding announcement is predicted to unlock thousands of jobs in the coming years, which was broadly welcomed by the industry.
It is hoped the plan will deliver $4 billion in economic value and create 16,000 new jobs by 2040 for Australia.
“This investment will help secure future economic opportunities for Australian businesses, create jobs and importantly, it will help keep Australians safe,” Prime Minister Morrison said.
But the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) says the funds won’t go far enough to deliver a leading national Quantum Strategy.
CEO Ron Gauci has been actively advocating for quantum-specific funding and acknowledged that the funding is a good start. He’s hoping for close consultation with industry to ensure Australia is not left behind.
“The government needs to execute at speed and scale, or we will continue to lose highly skilled people offshore and get left further behind on these critical technologies,” he said.
“Funding announced in May’s budget for the national AI strategy is still yet to be accessed by industry. We need the government to move at speed to harness the opportunities such as quantum and AI offer Australia.”
The federal government needs to develop a national strategy that will propel the ICT sector forward to ensure Australia doesn’t become a laggard, he says.
Gauci points to Canada as an example, which has invested $390 million ($C360 million) over seven years to launch a national quantum strategy.
His comments come after Prime Minister Scott Morrison identified quantum technologies as one of its nine technologies for initial focus, unveiling a $111 million shot in the arm for the technology.
The quantum investment includes $70 million for the Quantum Commercialisation Hub to foster strategic partnerships with like-minded countries to commercialise quantum research and help Australian businesses access new markets and investors.
The hub will be supported by the development of a National Quantum Strategy and quantum technologies prospectus.
Morrison says this will align industry and government efforts and help businesses access new markets and investors.
The strategy will be informed by a national committee on quantum, comprised of a group of industry stakeholders and experts, led by Australia’s chief scientist, Dr Cathy Foley.
Minister for the Digital Economy Jane Hume said the government is grasping the opportunities in quantum technology as a jobs creation vehicle and to boost the nation’s research, innovation and productivity.
The global quantum industry is expected be worth at least $86 billion by 2040, Hume said.
“By embracing and fostering this technology, we can increase the power of computing, as well as help create more reliable navigation and more secure communications. It’s the logical extension of our investment in digitisation and a focus of the Digital Economy Strategy,” she said.
In welcoming the news, The University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Mark Scott said the nation is at a crucial stage of transitioning from fundamental research to the translation of quantum physics into real-world machines.
These have the potential to contribute huge shifts in pharmaceutical design, personalised medicine, cyber security, transport optimisation and hundreds of yet-to-be released applications, Scott said.
The nation needs to continue fostering a culture of openness in developing the fundamental science that underpins quantum technology, he added.
“Just like the early pioneers of classical computers last century could not imagine the invention of the smart phone, artificial intelligence or the internet, our quantum pioneers are laying the basis for a complete paradigm shift in technological development.”