‘A seminal moment’: The AUKUS technology opportunity

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

The new AUKUS agreement marks a “seminal moment” for technology access and transfer and Australia needs to be “restlessly ambitious” to take advantage of the opportunities on offer, according to Minderoo Foundation head of operations Rear Admiral Lee Goddard.

Speaking at the InnovationAus Capability event, Rear Admiral Goddard and Silicon Quantum Computing founder Professor Michelle Simmons discussed Australia’s strengths in quantum computing and efforts to build a local industry around it.

Michelle Simmons: Not enough Australians know their country is a quantum world leader

The recently signed AUKUS agreement with the US and UK should be viewed as a technology and innovation access and transfer deal, Rear Admiral Goddard said, with significant opportunities in terms of quantum computing, artificial intelligence, robotics and cybersecurity.

“This is a seminal moment as we assess how we’re going to tackle this opportunity. These are technologies that Australia not only owns but we are the global leader. The fundamental question is what do we own, what do we need to collaborate on and what do we need to access?” Rear Admiral Goddard said at the InnovationAus event.

Quantum computing and the wider AUKUS agreement can help to “unlock” Australia’s potential, he said.

“We have the talent and the history and the potential that is critical. Now it’s critical we drive through with what we say we’re going to do, attract talent and build on the quantum momentum we have,” he said.

“Let’s be restlessly ambitious. We can’t be conservative, we need to take some risks. Risk is opportunity and we’ve got to take it.”

Australia is already leading the way on quantum, Professor Simmons said.

“It’s amazing that not many Australians recognise that we are world leaders on this,” Professor Simmons said.

“Over the last 20 years we’ve developed leadership in manufacturing and building hardware in Australia and building the ecosystem around it to operate those systems. Australia is really taking the leadership in getting government, industry and research to work together.

“We’ve got this incredible momentum, and people want to go where the momentum is, and there’s an opportunity to capitalise on that and bring the students in.”

Professor Simmons backed the Rear Admiral’s calls for Australia to be bold and zero in on areas of strategic advantage and priority, and described her ambitions for her own company, Silicon Quantum Computing.

“You’ve got to be bold and ambitious,” she said.

“We’re absolutely gunning to build a processor here in Australia. We can build it here without a multibillion dollar manufacturing industry. We’ve got engineers at every level, it’s going to create a whole new transformational computing industry here in Australia. There are many areas where Australia leads and we’ve got to identify where they are and accelerate them.”

It’s also important to be ambitious to drive Australia’s sovereign capability in these tech sectors, Rear Admiral Goddard said.

“Australia needs to stand up and do the things it needs to do to reflect the strategic situation. We need to be self-reliant because the situation has changed,” he said.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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