Govts urged to follow PsiQuantum bet with more local investment

Australia’s $940 million bet on PsiQuantum should be swiftly followed by more direct investments in local quantum businesses and research organisations, according to the country’s newest technology industry association.

The Tech Council of Australia welcomed the investment by the federal and Queensland governments in the California-based company tackling the quantum challenge using a photonics-based approach.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Queensland Premier Steven Miles announced $940 million in equity, grants and loans for PsiQuantum on Tuesday to establish its Asia-Pacific headquarters and 400 jobs in Brisbane.

The nine-figure investment follows six months of secrecy by the federal government over a private expressions of interest process that industry insiders claim was written in a way that favoured PsiQuantum.

Image: K. Wroblewski

Without commenting on the process that led to the investment, the Tech Council said it is a “strong advocate” of direct investment into the Australia quantum sector to “create a more competitive environment” for companies to grow.

The Tech Council agreed with the government that Australia “can’t be left behind” as other countries, including China, the United States and, most recently, the United Kingdom, spend billions on their respective quantum sectors.

But the peak body said that the announcement “needs to mark the start of a broader uplift in funding for Australia’s quantum industry”, with new support from the federal government totalling $30 million in last year’s Budget.

“This significant investment should be followed quickly by an acceleration in direct funding by government in Australia’s quantum businesses and research organisations,” the unattributed statement said.

According to the research by the peak body and McKinsey in 2022, Australia’s share of global quantum startups is 3.8 per cent despite only producing 1.7 per cent of the global startups generally.

The sector was also attracting 3.6 per cent of all global venture capital funding for quantum in 2022 — well above Australia’s contribution to global Gross Domestic Product of 1.6 percent.

The Australian Information Industry Association has also welcomed the investment, which is close to the $1 billion it recommended the government spend on quantum research and technology over five years in 2022.

“The AIIA has been calling for significant leadership and investment by government to commercialise Australian critical technologies, scale up their operations and create exciting new jobs for Australians,” AIIA chief executive Simon Bush said.

“Today’s announcement shows what is possible when governments put their minds towards supporting critical ICT innovation that in turn support productivity across the entire economy.”

The AIIA’s 2022 submission to the National Quantum Strategy also called for the government to “assume risk to produce self-sustaining commercial outcomes in the quantum sector” by awarding contracts, rather than just grants.

Mr Bush has called on the government to make “meaningful and significant investment in artificial intelligence commercialisation, research and adoption across the Australian economy”.

“While the rest of the world invests tens of billions (for example Canada recently invested $2.7b in AI in its budget), the Australian Government has committed only $41 million to date,” he said in a statement.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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