Australia’s forthcoming quantum strategy will help set the country up to reach its ambition of being a “big player, not a bit player”, building on strong existing foundations to target future success, according to Industry minister Ed Husic.
Speaking at the Quantum Australia conference in Sydney on Wednesday, Mr Husic said the strategy, finalised by chief scientist Dr Cathy Foley in December, would complement the “good building blocks” in place by providing an overarching vision.
“We are determined that the National Quantum Strategy is the beginning of a conversation, not a punctuation mark… to set a vision, principles to shape Australia’s leadership… with quantum technologies that we can build on for years to come,” he said.
“It is a critical opportunity for the country. We believe in the quantum ecosystem, its role in national prosperity and security, and we’ve long had an outsized impact on quantum research.”
Mr Husic, who poured cold water on rumours that the strategy would be launched at the conference, said he is in the process of “trying to build [the strategy] in with a number of things that we’re doing”, including the National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) and the robotics strategy.
“I want all of these pieces to fit; to make sure the investments fit and also to make sure that around the Cabinet table there’s an understanding and an appreciation of why this will be so crucial,” he said.
The NRF is a $15 billion investment fund modelled on the Clean Energy Finance Corporation’s green bank that will be used to “support Australian industries that can provide high paying jobs”. It contains a $1 billion carve-out to invest in critical technologies like quantum.
Mr Husic said the “strategy is designed in large part in my thinking to inform the board of the NRF” and help determine the investments that the fund should make.
“When it comes to quantum technology, we should have the ambition to be a big player, not a bit player. And while we are all here to talk about quantum technologies, we can’t lose sight. The real challenge and opportunity for us is how we integrate quantum into other industry sectors,” he said.
“It’s something I think about quite a bit in terms of building your market and ensuring you’ve got a pathway for future sustainability. How we capitalise on our edge in quantum research, how we retain our position as one of the world’s leading clusters of expertise is all stuff on the top of my mind.”
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.
Mr Husic described these estimates as “very conservative” on Wednesday, saying that it is possible for “quantum technologies to add over $9 million to Australian GDP and create over 50,000 jobs by 2045”.
He also told the conference of his “long discussions” with the head of the US government’s National Science Foundation this week about ensuring Australia has international engagement, including on quantum.
“We’ve been talking through areas where we can work further on this and also within Quad science partners as well. We’re also talking with expats in Australia to lure back talent here so that we can build the local workforce too,” Mr Husic added.
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