More than $2.5 million per year will be spent to manage the federal government’s near-$500 million investment in US company PsiQuantum’s attempt to build a quantum computer in Brisbane.

This week’s federal budget also revealed that the $466.4 million that will go towards the American tech company will comprise at least $200 million in loans, and none of the funding will be in the form of grants.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers handed down the federal budget in Canberra on Tuesday night, revealing more details of the controversial quantum bet.

The government announced last month that it would be contributing half of a $940 million funding package, in partnership with the Queensland state government, for PsiQuantum to base its attempt to build the world’s first utility-scale quantum computer in Brisbane.

The company, which was founded by two Australians but is based in California, will now base its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Brisbane and attempt to build a fault-tolerant quantum computer by 2027.

The announcement ended six months of speculation – first revealed by Information Age – regarding the government’s plans to purchase a quantum computer, which had been shrouded in secrecy.

It was recently revealed that the Industry department issued an expression of interest in August last year to “explore the maturity of the market around quantum computers”, with more than 20 companies approached.

Loans and equity

The federal budget this week offered some extra detail, and also revealed that $27.7 million has been allocated over 11 years for the management of this contract.

Equating to more than $2.5 million per year, the money will be provided to the Department of Finance, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Industry department and Treasury to “manage and provide oversight of this investment”.

While the budget continued to shield details of the quantum investment using “commercial sensitivities”, it did reveal that the loan portion of the package is worth at least $200 million.

The PsiQuantum funding was listed in a budget table of loans “estimated to exceed $200 million at 30 June 2024”.

All other details of the loan, including the amount, interest rate and terms were kept secret due to commercial-in-confidence clauses.

“The financial implications of the financing package are not for publication due to commercial sensitivities,” the budget said.

The PsiQuantum loan was the only one in that table that was kept secret.

“PsiQuantum will build the world’s first commercial-scale quantum computer in Brisbane, become the anchor tenant in a growing quantum precinct in Brisbane and deliver PhD positions and research collaborations,” the budget papers said.

The budget did reveal that the funding package will consist of equity and loans, and did not list that any grants would be involved.

The funding will be delivered through Export Finance Australia on the National Interest Account.

Aside from the $466 million for PsiQuantum and the $27.7 million to oversee the project, there was no additional funding in the 2024 budget for the quantum sector, and just $39.9 million over five years set aside for artificial intelligence technologies.

The funding provided just to oversee the PsiQuantum contract is more than the $21.6 million delivered in the budget for the National AI Centre and AI advisory body, which will be moved from CSIRO to the Industry department.

‘Serious questions’

The Opposition was highly critical of the PsiQuantum investment when it was announced last month, with Shadow Minister for Science Paul Fletcher labelling it a “very poor process facilitated in a secretive manner and lacking in competitive rigour”.

“There are serious questions Labor needs to answer about why there was no open, publicly announced, transparent expression of interest process to choose a company to receive this significant amount of taxpayer money,” Fletcher said following the announcement.