Australia’s long-awaited first National Quantum Strategy launched on Wednesday as the government looks to cement the country’s position as a world leader in quantum technologies which are forecast to create 19,400 jobs by 2045.
The strategy focuses on five critical themes relating to the development, investment, and use of quantum technologies; securing the industry’s supply chain; building a quantum workforce; keeping standards development in line with the national interest; and ensuring the ecosystem is ethical and inclusive.
Chief Scientist Dr Cathy Foley said Australia was “well positioned to capitalise” on research that has been happening in local labs for the last 25 years.
“Our entrepreneurial spirit is generating new start‑ups and attracting major companies,” she said.
“This is our chance to grow a thriving deep‑tech industry, built out of coordinated, long‑term government investment and a critical mass of world‑class Australian‑trained quantum specialists.
“We are in the top handful of countries embarking on a quantum ambition. But we have to act now, as there is intense global attention on the promise of quantum.”
Australia led the world on quantum research in the early 2000s but some believed we risked squandering this advantage by failing to have a national initiative dedicated to growing local quantum businesses, research, and investment.
The aim of the Quantum Strategy is to remedy this neglect through a set of 13 actions ranging from investment through the National Reconstruction Fund, to actively monitoring supply chains that affect quantum industries, and incorporating quantum science into education programs in schools, universities, and TAFEs.
Australian Computer Society (ACS) CEO Chris Vein said the organisation was “encouraged to see the government so engaged with quantum technologies”.
“For decades, Australia has been a world leader in quantum computing and we are pleased to see the government recognise that and start nurturing the local ecosystem,” he said.
“ACS looks forward to working with Minister Husic, and the rest of the government to develop policies, programs and pathways to get more Australians into rewarding technology jobs and ensure there are enough people with the right skills.”
For Industry and Science Minister Ed Husic, who has talked up the government’s quantum ambitions since coming into the portfolio last year, the strategy is a key milestone – now the government just has to deliver on its promises.
“We have all of the ingredients to sustain our existing leadership on quantum into the next decade,” Husic said.
“This National Quantum Strategy – the first quantum strategy for Australia – brings them together and sets the course for a growing, vibrant quantum industry and research ecosystem.”
Within the quantum industry, the strategy has been well received.
Professor Michelle Simmons, founder and director of Silicon Quantum Computing, told Information Age it was “refreshing” to have an industry minister backing the high-tech work of Australia’s top researchers.
“We’ve got ambitions to build a full-scale quantum computer here in Australia,” she said.
“It feels like we’re on the precipice of something fantastic that we’ve been building over a long time. It’s great to have the policy settings to support that.”
Dr Andrew Horsley, CTO of Quantum Brilliance, said it was “fantastic” seeing quantum industry support from Ed Husic, but that he would like to see government take a more direct adoption role when it comes to quantum technologies.
“One of the key things we see overseas is government as a first customer,” he told Information Age.
“This helps support the growth of local quantum supply chains and facilitates other companies to come in and start experimenting and building on quantum computing.
“But that hasn’t come through as strong as we’d hoped in the strategy.”
Professor Michael Biercuk, founder and CEO of Q-Ctrl said Australia had a change to be a big-time player in the emerging quantum industry.
“We are thrilled to have the broad and vocal support of Minister Husic in backing a vision for a quantum industry with benefits that are shared broadly and ambitions unconstrained by historical challenges,” he said.
Opposition science spokesperson Paul Fletcher was, unsurprisingly, less enthused about the strategy, calling it “very thin” and “full of wishy washy and essentially meaningless commitments”.
“There is a vague reference to one billion dollars of funding for critical technologies under the National Reconstruction Fund – but there is no commitment as to how much, if any, of this will go to quantum research or commercialisation,” Fletcher said.