Cathy Foley on Australia’s next stage in quantum research


Rachael Bolton
Contributor

Creating a commercial landscape that will build investor confidence will be a key focus of Australia’s National Quantum Strategy, according to its architect, Australia’s chief scientist and renowned physicist, Dr Cathy Foley.

While the strategy document itself is still in its embryonic stages, Dr Foley told InnovationAus that she believes in an expansive vision for quantum technologies. “Quantum technologies are going to be something that will be in every part of every day, just like classical technology,” she said.

Australia has been investing in quantum research for decades, but it is hoped a national strategy will help to solidify our place as a key player in the field, punching well above our weight in terms of both research output and potential commercial impact.

Cathy Foley
Australian chief scientist Dr Cathy Foley

The strategy forms part of the new Blueprint for Critical Technologies, announced by the Morrison Government last month, ranking quantum alongside 5G, 6G and artificial intelligence as research areas of vital and immediate concern.

“I was delighted that the government asked me to lead the development of a National Quantum Strategy,” Dr Foley said. “Including a commercialisation hub for quantum, which has been identified by the sector to help that translation to happen.”

Dr Foley describes a vision for the Australian quantum research sector that is expansive for existing tech industry as well as creating brand new industry.

“The things we have to take into account are: requirements, standards, supply chains,” she said. “We’ve got to worry about the workforce and, of course, attracting investment.

“When you’re dealing with anything that can lead to a new industry, of course governments can set things up but industry have to feel they can invest in it and feel they will have prosperity from it.

“We need it to be attractive and investible from an international as well as a national perspective.”

She said the research landscape in Australia is vibrant and she is delighted to see the level collaboration and cooperation that exists across the science and tech sectors in this country.

“Whether that’s states, territories, Commonwealth, universities, industry,” she said. “There is a real desire to actually link up, join up, to create a critical mass, knowing how small we are as a country.”

Dr Foley was speaking ahead of the inaugural InnovationAus 2021 Awards for Excellence, of which she is one of two Patrons.

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