Quantum technologies could add $6 billion to the country’s economy by 2045 and be the source of 19,400 jobs, according to updated economic modelling from Australia’s science agency, CSIRO.

CSIRO released its latest figures last week, noting that there remains “high levels of uncertainty as to how quantum technology will be commercialised around the world”.

“Some recent developments, such as public and private investment announcements and new policy initiatives and focused funding, provide optimism,” CSIRO said.

“Other indicators, such as a recent slowdown in the founding of quantum technology companies, suggest a more moderate market outlook is warranted."

Regardless, the report – which is an update on its 2020 figures that said quantum technologies would create 16,000 new jobs by 2040 – points to a significant economic opportunity if Australia can grasp it.

By 2040, Australia could have some 16,100 quantum technologies jobs – close to the number of people employed in oil and gas extraction (around 17,000) in the 2020-21 financial year.

At the start of this century, Australia led the world in quantum research but a lack of government support has let other parts of the world catch up in the race to commercialisation.

Speaking at the CSIRO Quantum Commercialisation Forum, Industry Minister Ed Husic said he was determined to make sure Australia makes the most of its already advanced quantum research.

“It absolutely burns me when I recall how there were five countries in the 1940s that built their own computer, and we were one of them – and we just gave it all away,” he said.

“We didn’t pursue our ambitions, [we were] too constrained, and we didn’t go through to make sure that we could manufacture and develop at scale.”

Indeed, CSIRO recognises how Australia can only take advantage of this quantum opportunity if it continues leading the world on quantum research while simultaneously hitting the market with products.

The commercialisation element is starting to come into its own in the last couple of years with the likes of Silicon Quantum Computing developing a quantum-integrated circuit and Australian-German outfit Quantum Brilliance installing its quantum accelerator at the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre.

But while governments have tried to splash some money toward quantum commercialisation, CSIRO notes Australia “will need to implement a focused and nationally coordinated approach to enhancing capability and collaboration to position the domestic industry for continued growth” or risk giving away our edge once again.

Toward a quantum strategy

Australia’s lack of a national approach to quantum technologies was noted in a report by Canadian research organisation CIFAR last year which provided an overview of quantum research around the world.

Where countries like the US, China, India, the UK, and France have national quantum strategies, Australia doesn’t.

At least not yet.

Earlier this month the Department of Industry released a proposed framework for a national quantum strategy, the first of its kind in Australia.

That proposal has seven broad objectives including access to ‘quantum infrastructure’ and the creation of a skilled workforce to “make Australia the top destination for quantum technology talent”.

Government support for quantum technologies is slated to come out of its $1 billion critical technologies fund which will also be paying for areas like robotics and AI.

Globally, quantum research is taking off with a growing list of countries dedicating resources to the emerging field.

China tops the list with its National Quantum Laboratory being funded to the tune of US$15 billion while Germany and France are each dedicating more than US$2 billion for quantum research.

This year’s Nobel Prize in Physics, announced at the start of the month, further shows how far along quantum research is moving.

Alain Aspect, John Clauser, and Anton Zeilinger won the prize for their experiments with entangling photons and “pioneering quantum information science”.

Chair of the Nobel Committee for Physics Anders Irbäck said “it has become increasingly clear that a new kind of quantum technology is emerging”.