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Quantum leap - Australia targets growth of its quantum industry to realise global ambitions

07 October 2022 | Australia
Legal Briefings – By Susannah Wilkinson, Julian Lincoln, Nayan Bhathela and Mayumi Martins

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The Australian Government has proposed a series of measures to boost the county's scientific and technology credentials

On 5 October 2022, the Australian Department of Industry, Science and Resources released a proposed National Quantum Strategy setting out a proposed framework for the Australian National Quantum Strategy (Consultation Paper). The government has invited public submissions on the Consultation Paper by 5 November 2022.

What are quantum technologies?

A quantum is the smallest discrete unit of a phenomenon (eg a quantum of electricity is an electron). Quantum theory is the theoretical basis of modern physics that explains the nature and behaviour of matter and energy on the atomic and subatomic level.

Quantum technologies harness the weird and wonderful world of quantum mechanics, with the potential to deliver significant increases in speed, accuracy and security to current technologies.

This includes:

  • Quantum sensors: New and more precise methods of sensing, which exploit the extreme sensitivity of quantum particles. This can be applied, for example, in medical research and healthcare to enable more sensitive scanning and improve detection of disease.
  • Quantum communications: Faster and more secure communications. For example, quantum key distribution (QKD), which offers cybersecurity benefits by enabling detection of any interferences in the distribution of cryptographic keys. QKD involves sending encrypted data as classical bits over networks, while the keys to decrypt the information are encoded and transmitted in a quantum state using qubits. The fragile quantum state of qubits mean if a hacker tries to interfere with them in transit, they “collapse” to either 1 or 0, leaving a sign of the activity.
  • Quantum computing: New and significantly faster form of computing compared to traditional computing using quantum bits (or qubits) and exploiting quantum phenomena. Potential use cases are extensive, but include the acceleration of machine learning and optimisation, and enhanced modelling of chemical and drug reactions to speed up medical research.

Australian researchers have made significant contributions to the development of quantum technologies and the growth of Australia’s quantum industry. According to CSIRO, quantum technologies are projected to generate over $4 billion in revenue for Australia by 2040. The Australian Government has previously recognised the importance of quantum in Australia’s economic future through its inclusion of quantum in Australia’s Blueprint for Critical Technologies.

The Consultation Paper

The Consultation Paper comes hot on the heels of a recent government issues paper on the National Quantum Strategy, which was followed by a series of roundtables led by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley AO PSM, canvassing views on the state of Australia’s quantum industry, the potential benefits and challenges of quantum, and opportunities for growth. The Australian Government also recently announced the creation of a National Quantum Advisory Committee, whose aim is to drive the National Quantum Strategy.

Building on the insights from the issues paper responses and roundtables, the Consultation Paper sets out seven objectives as the proposed framework for Australia’s National Quantum Strategy, along with proposed policy initiatives to support those objectives:

 

 Objective Proposed Initiatives
1. Create a thriving environment for development, commercialisation and use of quantum technologies Proposed initiatives include investing in projects to create a pipeline of investment-ready quantum activities, and increasing co-ordination between industry, government and academia
2. Enable access to world-leading quantum infrastructure Proposed initiatives include conducting a national audit to understand what existing infrastructure is in place to enable quantum research and industry, and facilitating access for quantum researchers and early-stage businesses to specific quantum infrastructure they require to experiment and grow
3. Enhance Australia’s global leadership in quantum research Proposed initiatives include developing a comprehensive research funding program in partnership with government and industry that addresses long- and short-term requirements, and growing international partnerships to create more opportunities for collaboration
4.  Drive skilled workforce growth to scale industry and make Australia the top destination for quantum technology talent Proposed initiatives include strengthening pathways into quantum careers by growing STEM and quantum science awareness in school curriculums, targeting key international talent, and exploring ways to increase participation of underrepresented groups in the quantum industry
5.  Strengthen Australia’s access and role in quantum supply chains Proposed initiatives include investigating options to reduce the quantum industry’s high import dependency, and identifying opportunities for Australian industry and technologies to be embedded in global supply chains
6.  Entrench Australia’s international partnerships and leadership Proposed initiatives include strengthening collaborations with established partners (such as AUKUS, Quad and other regional and bilateral agreements), and participating in international quantum standards-setting bodies
7.  Build trust, ensure inclusivity and balance national interests Proposed initiatives include building a program of community engagement to make quantum accessible to as many Australians as possible, and supporting defence and national security requirements for quantum research and capability growth

By developing its National Quantum Strategy, Australia looks to join countries such as the United States and China, as well as the European Union, which have developed clear goals around quantum technologies backed by significant investment.