CSIRO funded for quantum PhDs in research boost

National science agency CSIRO has been named the beneficiary of $3.6 million in federal government funding for quantum PhDs promised in the lead up to last year’s election, as the wait for a national strategy continues.

Sydney Quantum Academy, a partnership between Macquarie University, the University of New South Wales, the University of Sydney, and the University of Technology Sydney has also been awarded $1 million to explore options to boost collaboration in the sector.

Industry minister Ed Husic announced the funding — $600,000 more than was first pledged as part during last year’s election campaign — on Thursday to train the next generation of quantum experts.

The $4.6 million is separate to the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund which includes a $1 billion carve-out for critical technologies, like quantum, artificial intelligence and robotics.

Funding for the forthcoming National Quantum Strategy, which remains to be seen three months after the draft handed to government, is expected to flow almost entirely from the NRF, with Mr Husic dampening expeditions of additional funding last month.

CSIRO will use the $3.6 million awarded on Thursday to fund up to 20 PhDs to “attract and train our nation’s next generation of quantum technology specialists, Mr Husic said in a statement.

SQA, which was set up in 2019 to build Australia’s quantum economy will, meanwhile, use its funding to “explore options for accelerating quantum collaboration activities around Australia,” according to the Industry department.

SQA is expected to “undertake consultations to inform how the existing ecosystem could be adapted and expanded nationally”, before presenting its findings to the Albanese government.

“Australia is at the forefront of research and development in quantum technology, contributing to breakthroughs for more than two decades,” Mr Husic said after announcing quantum physics laboratories at the University of Queensland on Thursday.

“Our capability is reflected across 22 quantum related institutions that have nurtured internationally sought-after talent. We have eight universities performing well above the international standard in quantum physics research.”

“But we need to build upon that. This includes offering Australians education opportunities in quantum so that we develop a pipeline of talent.

“Our efforts in quantum also need to be coordinated across the nation, with researchers, industry and government working together to reap the economic and social benefits.”

The CSIRO estimates that quantum technology will be a $4.6 billion industry in Australia by the end of 2030 and worth as much as $6 billion by 2045. It is also expected to create 19,000 jobs over the next 22 years.

At the time of last year’s announcement, Labor said the funding for PhDs and collaboration would complement the NRF, the AUKUS security pact and its planned $1.2 billion defence innovation agency.

The government has yet to commit funding to the Defence innovation agency, Advanced Strategic Research Agency.

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