‘We are going to fight for them’: Husic on local quantum stars

James Riley
Editorial Director

Industry and Science minister Ed Husic told the National Press Club in March that when he launched the federal government’s National Quantum Strategy, it would not come with a giant funding commitment attached to it.

And he has remained true to his word. Despite the proximity of the quantum strategy launch to the federal Budget next week, the strategy was delivered with no headline-grabbing dollar figure on its opening page.

While there will be line items from the strategy funded in the budget, the headline number for the quantum strategy remains the one announced more than a year ago in the run-up to the 2022 election: the $1 billion critical technologies sub-fund earmarked for tech like quantum as part of the National Reconstruction Fund.

That remains the headline. There is a billion dollars of co-investment funds available to accelerate the translation of Australia’s quantum research into successful commercial, social and national security outcomes.

Industry and Science minister Ed Husic

The message that Ed Husic wants to deliver to the Australian quantum community of researchers, entrepreneurs and investors through the strategy is that he is fully aware of the importance of this moment-in-time for the sector.

“I have wanted the [quantum] community to know that I ‘get’ how big a deal this is, and that we are going to fight for them,” Mr Husic told InnovationAus.com.

“[We will fight] to make sure that they’ve got an optimal environment – a supporting and nurturing environment – for them to grow.

“This is a really a big moment in time [for quantum], and we take it really seriously. This is not just a strategy getting announced. It is firing the starters gun on a whole lot of other work that needs to occur, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

The strategy itself is bold, and the commitments it makes on behalf of government will indeed require Budget funding.

One of its five themes relates to securing access to essential quantum infrastructure and materials. Part of that commitment includes plans for a national audit of national quantum-related infrastructure that enables quantum research – which to be honest sounds more bureaucratic than bold and ambitious.

But when you consider the strategy includes committing the Australian Government to “building the world’s first error-corrected quantum computer in Australia”, you get a picture of the kind of infrastructure that Mr Husic wants our quantum community to get access to.

A significant part of the strategy relates to working as an active participant on global standards for quantum technologies, as well as looking at Australia’s regulatory frameworks to foster quantum-related research and potential investment in local quantum companies – and supporting potential exports – while still protecting Australia’s national interest.

It’s a complicated world out there right now, and while there are clearly things that Australia will want to pursue with its friends, there are equally things that the nation will seek to keep within its sovereign interest.

The strategy is clear in its ambitions to strengthen collaboration and opportunities for Australian industry through established partners – AUKUS, the Quad, etc – as well as to consider opportunities for Australian leadership in the region through research and “science diplomacy”.

“This is not just about an economic security [strategic] play, there’s a national security element as well,” Mr Husic said.

“We know that with Pillar II of AUKUS, there’s an expectation that our partners will come to the table with technological capabilities. So this is a real big moment for us, to be able to think longer term about quantum.

“Because there are clear national security and cyber implications when it comes to quantum and being ready for that post-quantum world. It is critical for us that we start getting our thinking around [that reality now]”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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