The CSIRO has upgraded its economic forecast for quantum technology, predicting it will be a $4.6 billion industry in Australia by the end of the next decade and directly employ as many Australians as oil and gas does today.
By 2045, the annual revenue generated by quantum computing, communications and sensing will have risen to $6 billion, with direct quantum jobs hitting 19,400.
Released on Thursday, the modelling is an improvement on the predictions CSIRO made in its 2020 quantum industry roadmap.
The author of the 2020 plan is current chief scientist of Australia Dr Cathy Foley, who is currently finalising Australia’s first national quantum strategy.
Dr Foley told a Sydney quantum commercialisation event that for Australia’s quantum industry to boom it must be sustainable, ethical and inclusive.
This means planning now and a “step up” in Australia’s approach to technology, she said, by considering things like emissions, supply chains, governance, human rights and workforce inclusion for quantum.
“Quantum computing, sensors and communications are going to be things that could potentially have good stuff happening, create opportunities, [and] really be able to solve some of the problems,” she said.
“But if you don’t handle it right it can have negative outcomes. We have to design for avoiding that.”
Industry minister Ed Husic told the sector’s stakeholders that the government wants to make sure Australia is “at the front of the quantum pack”.
“What I see in quantum tells me that if we get this right, we can be world leaders, and not to just go for the small parts of the value chain. We’ve got to think big,” Mr Husic said.
“Because in terms of what the government wants to do, with respect to ideas, skills, capital, joining all this up, we want to be able to lever off what [scientists] are able to do, and do this at scale.”
Mr Husic said reports of falling venture capital and angel investment in Australia had “chilled” him and it was a reason the government is setting aside $1 billion from its National Reconstruction Fund for critical technologies like quantum.
“This is why the government is moving in in the way that we are — to provide that layer of capital. As I said, your ideas paired with the investment in skills we’re doing plus that layer of capital will make sure that people don’t feel like at the point they’re ready to grow, the only way they can do it is to say goodbye to this country.”
The CSIRO modelling released on Thursday forecasts the Australian quantum industry to reach $6 billion and generate more than 19,000 jobs in Australia by 2045.
It upgrades the earlier forecast for 2040 by $600 million to $4.6 billion, and add 2030 and 2035 predictions of $2.2 billion and $3.3 billion respectively.
The latest report notes there are still “high levels of uncertainty” as to how quantum technology will be commercialised around the world, but increasing investment and policy initiatives are cause for optimism.
CSIRO Senior Economist Mingji Liu said the updated report again uses conservative estimates and its forecasts relate to direct quantum technologies revenue and jobs.
“It’s safe to say that the figures we have here, they’re just like the tip of the iceberg for what this technology can mean to Australia,” he said.
“However, these estimates are continuant on the ability for cutting edge and to some degree still speculative technologies to be commercialised both around the world and domestically.”
Public consultation on Australia’s national quantum strategy is in the final stages, with views sought by early November.
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