Six months after trumpeting $19.8 million for an “Australian Centre for Quantum Growth” the Albanese government and science and innovation minister Ed Husic have slapped $18.5 million on the table hoping someone will take up the reins to make it happen.
The $18.5 million in funding is to establish the Australian Centre for Quantum Growth “to support the growth of the nation’s quantum workforce and build relationships with key international counterparts”.
Applications for the money opened today in the hope someone will apply for it over the Christmas break and close on January 24.
A government government spokesperson said the balance of $1.3 million is the administrative cost associated with the program.
In the May federal budget, having just launched the National Quantum Strategy, treasurer Jim Chalmers committed $40.2 million to deliver a Critical Technologies Challenge Program.
“The measure also commits $19.8 million to establish the Australian Centre for Quantum Growth,” the announcement said at the time.
Why that figure was subsequently trimmed was not explained by a bullish Husic in announcing the grant today at QuintessenceLabs in Canberra.
“Time and again Australia has been at the front of the pack in emerging tech only to see that lead fritter away, without proper investment and support,” he said.
“Australia is one of the world’s top quantum destinations, based on decades of research excellence that’s translating into us having the fifth largest quantum workforce in the world.
More broadly, the government allocated $101.2 million towards supporting businesses to integrate quantum and AI into their operations, but there were concerns around a lack of commitment to research grant funding, with government support for the sector going backwards, despite Husic’s rhetoric.
The May budget also killed off several former Coalition government programs, a year after Labor assumed power, including the controversial Entrepreneurs Program – it already had nearly $200 million shaved from it in the November 2022 budget – which had previously backed Canberra startup Quantum Brilliance. Also halted were the Accelerating Commercialisation, and Innovation Connections grants, which sat under the entrepreneur program. At the same time, Labor announced plans for a $392 million Industry Growth Program. Six months later, looking not dissimilar to the former entrepreneurs program, it opened for applications last week, offering grants worth up to $5 million grants to startups and small businesses.