The Albanese government has withheld funding details for the country’s first-ever quantum strategy due to “commercial sensitivities”, fueling speculation that it is in the market for a quantum computer.
In the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO), the government revealed previously unannounced funding for the seven-year National Quantum Strategy announced a week before the Budget in May.
But the surprise funding has been marked ‘not for publication’ (nfp) this financial year, with expenditure over the forward estimates also left blank in MYEFO documents released on Wednesday.
“The financial implications of this measure are nfp due to commercial sensitivities,” the documents read, adding that the cost of the measure will be “met from savings identified in the Industry, Science and Resources portfolio”.
One saving measure identified by the government over the last six months is the $1.2 billion National Space Mission for Earth Observation (NSMEO) program, also listed as nfp due to commercial sensitivities in the MYEFO.
The total value of spending measures “taken but not yet announced and nfp” is $4.7 billion over four years, with much of this falls in the 2025-26 ($1.67 billion) and 2026-27 ($1.8 billion). Revenue measures come in at $2.4 billion over four years.
A spokesperson for the Industry department would not say why funding for the quantum strategy is listed as nfp for a single year, repeating that the measure is “nfp due to commercial sensitives” when contacted by InnovationAus.com.
The office of Industry and Science minister Ed Husic was contacted for comment.
The funding for the quantum strategy comes just weeks after it emerged the federal government had approached a small number of local and foreign quantum computing firms for information about their offerings, as reported by InnovationAus.com.
The expressions of interest process, which began in August and surprised many in the tech industry, is part of a plan to acquire a full-stack error-corrected quantum computer, a proposal understood to cost upwards of $100 million.
When the quantum strategy was released in May, it proposed building the “world’s first error-corrected quantum computer in Australia”, but contained no additional funding beyond the $1 billion Critical Technologies Fund, a carve out of the government’s $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund.
US-based company PsiQuantum, which has a publicly stated ambition to deliver its first commercial quantum computer in less than six years, is considered a front-runner in the EoI process.
Mr Husic and the Industry department have so far declined to comment on the expressions of interest process, which has been kept under wraps through unusually strict non-disclosure agreements.
Last week, shadow minister for Government Services and the Digital Economy Paul Fletcher said the government would have “serious questions to answer” if it were to move ahead with the investment.
He is seeking further information about the procurement process behind the “rumoured” investment, which could damage the potential for Australian quantum companies to raise money in the future.
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