Labor pledges $4m to help retain quantum research talent

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Labor has pledged $4 million in new funding to support Australian quantum researchers, promising to grow the strategically important sector and capitalise on the comparative advantage it has created if it wins Saturday’s election.

Announced Wednesday, the commitment includes $3 million for quantum technology PhDs, and another $1 million to “kickstart” national collaboration on quantum research and education, based on the Sydney Quantum Academy model.

Quantum computer. Photo: IBM

The Sydney Quantum Academy is a partnership between four New South Wales universities with state government support that aims to build Australia’s “quantum economy” by attracting and developing leading researchers, facilitating industry partnerships and promoting responsible development.

Shadow Defence minister Brendan O’Conner and shadow assistant minister for cybersecurity Tim Watts said a similar approach at a national level would happen under a Labor government which would also fund more quantum PhDs with its $4 million commitment.

“Graduate research is the raw fuel that powers a nation’s domestic quantum industry – the quantum PhD students of today are the start-up founders and commercial pioneers of tomorrow,” a joint statement said.

“Quantum technology promises breakthroughs in weapons, communications, sensing and computing technology including for military use, and the potential for strategic advantage has spurred a major increase in funding and research and development in recent years overseas.”

Labor said the comparative advantage Australia has in quantum technologies came on the back of previous Labor investments like the Rudd Government’s $40 million investment in the Sydney Nanonscience Hub.

The new funding commitment is separate from Labor’s $15 billion National Reconstruction fund which has carved out $1 billion for critical technologies.

Labor says the $4 million for PhDs and collaboration will complement the fund, its planned $1.2 billion defence innovation agency and the AUKUS security pact which includes information sharing on critical technologies.

The Coalition has also shown support for quantum, including signing a cooperation agreement with the US, developing a national quantum strategy – currently being led by Australia’s chief scientist Dr Cathy Foley – and funding Australia’s first Quantum Commercialisation Hub with $70 million in funding over the next decade

CSIRO has predicted quantum could create 16,000 new jobs and be worth $4 billion dollars to the Australian economy by 2040, comparable to Australia’s current wool and wheat industries.

Despite being considered a global research leader in quantum, investment in quantum in Australia has fallen in the last five years, with Labor previously arguing the area has been neglected by the Coalition.

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