Emerging quantum technology applications will present substantial opportunities for economic growth, improving productivity and creating new jobs in the coming decades. Quantum technologies – which are powered by incredible advancements in quantum physics research – could accelerate drug and materials development, enhance national security, increase productive mineral exploration and improve secure communications, as outlined in the report Growing Australia’s Quantum Technology Industry. “This report explores Australia’s opportunity to develop a domestic quantum technology industry, including an assessment of the nation’s strengths and challenges, and economic
analysis of key opportunity areas for the year 2040.”
Researchers have demonstrated proof of concept for transformational quantum technologies including precision sensors, secure communication networks, and quantum computers. Successful commercialisation of these technologies can underpin industry growth for decades to come while driving productivity growth and enhancing security across a range of existing industries.Global investments in quantum technology have rapidly increased in recent years as private investors, businesses and governments grow more confident in the economic potential of quantum technology.
Globally, at least 52 quantum technology companies received capital investment between 2012 and 2018. Over this period, the value of these investments grew almost fourfold. Many governments are implementing strategic investment programs to develop their domestic quantum industries . Since 2017, at least 5 nations have committed to billion-dollar scale quantum technology initiatives or funding packages including EU, US, India, Germany, Russia, UK and Netherlands. China is also investing heavily, including a reported $14.7 billion for the world’s largest quantum research facility. These national initatives recognise quantum technology as both a valuable long-term investment and an important sovereign capability due to its potential applications in secure communications and defence.
CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said quantum technology can help Australia grow a sustainable technology industry. “As Australia recovers from the impacts of COVID-19, we will need to create new industries to give Australia unfair advantage globally to produce unique high margin products that support higher wages,” Dr Marshall said. “Science and Technology are the key to economic prosperity in a world driven by disruption.” . For example, CSIRO has developed an innovative mineral exploration system using superconducting quantum
sensors. The commercial use of these systems has enabled mineral resource discoveries worth billions of dollars over the past 10 years.
Australia was a pioneer in quantum technology development and has established world-class quantum research capabilities and expertise through over two decades of sustained research investment. We are now witnessing a growing number of quantum technology related businesses pursuing research and commercialisation efforts in Australia. These includes early stage university spinouts, VC-funded start-ups, joint ventures, and multinationals.
There are now at least 22 quantum-related research institutions in Australia including eight universities performing quantum physics research well above the world standard, according to evaluation by the ARC. In recognition of their world class capabilities, Australia’s
quantum researchers have attracted funding and attention from international stakeholders including Google, Lockheed Martin, IBM, Microsoft, and the US Government.
A growing number of quantum technology start‑ups and related businesses are undertaking their development and commercialisation efforts in Australia. Australia’s leading quantum technology companies QuintessenceLabs (over $30 million), Silicon Quantum Computing ($83.7 million), and Q-Ctrl (over $22 million) have each attracted significant investment and funding. QuintessenceLabs has commercialised a variety of quantum-enhanced cybersecurity solutions; Silicon Quantum Computing has developed record-breaking silicon-based qubits and plans to build a 10-qubit prototype quantum‑integrated processor by 2023;and Q-CTRL has released a hardware‑agnostic software suite
to enhance quantum technology stability.
There are also new start-ups emerging that seek to demonstrate and commercialise knowledge that was developed within the Australian quantum industry. For example, in 2020, CSIRO’s ON Accelerate Program is supporting three quantum-related teams to develop and validate their business models: Nomad Atomics (a precision accelerometry and gravimetry sensing platform for monitoring underground resources such as water and gas); Quantum Brilliance (a diamond-based quantum computing platform); and Redback Systems (a compact spectrograph with higher resolution imaging)
Professor Andrew White, Director of the Australian Research Council Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS) and Professor at the University of Queensland, said Australia’s quantum research was internationally recognised. “Australia’s world-leading research in quantum technology is driving us towards solutions we could only imagine a few years ago, across a number of sectors. For example, quantum sensors could give us early disease detection and quantum-enhanced communications could offer stronger security for sensitive data transmissions.”
Australia’s emerging quantum technology sector could support 16,000 jobs and create over $4 billion annual revenue by 2040, according to a report by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency. CSIRO Chief Scientist Dr Cathy Foley identified quantum computing as the most promising long-term opportunity for Australia, but researchers and industry need to work together to overcome development challenges. “Quantum computing has the potential to contribute more than $2.5 billion to the economy each year, while spurring breakthroughs in drug development, more efficient industrial processes, and accelerated machine learning systems,” Dr Foley said. “The commercialisation of quantum enhanced sensors and communications technologies could also generate upwards of $1.7 billion revenue.
“To realise these opportunities, we need a national conversation about a coordinated, collaborative approach to growing a thriving domestic quantum economy.” Phil Morle is partner at Main Sequence Ventures, which manages the CSIRO Innovation Fund and invests in quantum start-ups. “As global competition heats up, Australia already has several early stage companies and start-ups built upon IP and expertise developed in Australian universities that have attracted over $125 million of investment and funding in recent years,” Mr Morle said.”Main Sequence invests in deep-tech start-ups because they are truly transformative, and quantum is exactly the transformative technology the economy needs at a time like this.”
Develop a national quantum technology strategy to implement this roadmap’s enabling actions and set long-term strategic priorities, commitments and indicators of success for Australia’s quantum industry.
- Attract, train and retain the best quantum talent and assess the future quantum technology workforce’s skill needs to inform strategic capability development and growth.
- Support entrepreneurship and accelerator programs that enhance the commercialisation skills of deep technology start-ups.
- Continue to support and leverage Australia’s shared research infrastructure through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy to promote open collaboration and cost-effective capital expenditure.
- Enhance research and training linkages between Australian Universities with complementary quantum strengths.
- Proactively explore and address any unknown ethical, social or environmental risks that may arise with the next generation of quantum technologies.
- Explore efficient and effective funding mechanisms to support the demonstration and commercialisation of quantum technology applications and enable the growth of emerging quantum businesses.
- Assess the industry capabilities and infrastructure facilities that will be critical to the success of a domestic quantum industry and develop business cases to address any gaps.
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