Quantum Computing

Science minister Ed Husic on quantum: ‘Have the ambition to be a big player, not a bit player’

- February 23, 2023 5 MIN READ
Ed Husic
Federal science and innovation minister Ed Husic
We believe in our quantum ecosystem and its role in Australia’s economic prosperity and national security.

Australia has long had an outsized impact on quantum research. The people who have had their training in quantum in Australia are now in leadership roles in research, industry and government here and around the world.

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 cannot lose sight that the real challenge and opportunity for us is how we integrate quantum into other industry sectors of the economy. How we capitalise on our edge in quantum research and retain our position as one of the world’s leading clusters of expertise across quantum technologies.

These technologies will have significant transformational impacts on society – part of the challenge is about how we can make this part of the norm in Australia, and in a way that serves our national interest.

This is a big part of this government’s agenda – to become a future-focused and resilient economy.

We need to take advantage of technologies and new ways of working to support Australian industries that can provide high paying jobs, in areas like manufacturing, robotics, artificial intelligence, renewable energy and emerging areas like quantum.

Australia has had an edge in quantum for some time now. Since 2003, we have funded eight Centres of Excellence through the Australian Research council, to investigate specific quantum questions and problems.

These centres allow universities and research agencies to partner with industry to investigate specific problems over a longer timeframe than the normal government research funding cycles.

Last November, for example, we announced $35 million in funding over seven years for a Centre of Excellence to develop quantum technologies able to observe biological processes.

This would transform our understanding of life, enabling devices like portable brain images and super-fast protein sensors.

The University of Queensland’s Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology is working on optical quantum computer systems.

The Defence Department is investing in quantum technologies and other priority areas through its $1.2 billion Next Generation Technologies Fund.

And states are accelerating their investments too. It’s been fantastic to hear of Breakthrough Victoria’s recent investments in Quantum Brilliance, and in a Cold Quanta collaboration with Swinburne University.

And universities are making their own investments too. It has been great to see University of Sydney announce an investment in a Future Qubit Foundry, enabling students to design, build and test qubit technology.

As a result, our quantum capabilities are world leading – providing Australia with a clear competitive advantage.

For Australia alone, conservative estimates suggest that quantum computing, communications and sensing could become a nearly $6 billion industry, creating over 19,000 jobs by 2045.

If technologies mature and are adopted faster than these conservative predictions, quantum technologies could add over $9 billion to Australia’s GDP and create over 50,000 total jobs by 2045.

Transforming and reinvigorating industry is exactly what we have in mind with our National Reconstruction Fund (NRF).

The opportunity for Australia is immense. Now we must capitalise on this momentum and set a clear path ahead.  A national vision for how we will mobilise to seize our quantum future is needed.

Setting the strategy

I mentioned the National Quantum Strategy. The strategy will project the Australian Government’s vision – to have a thriving quantum industry and be at the forefront of global technological innovation.

The strategy is based on extensive consultation with the quantum sector and wider community. Many of you here today and online provided submissions, attended roundtables, working groups, and town halls.

Rest assured, the strategy will reflect and address key themes that emerged during consultations.

We need an ecosystem where there is sufficient capital for businesses to grow, and quickly.  As well as access to enabling infrastructure to support R&D and onshore manufacturing.

To help meet these needs – and as part of the government’s broader push to become makers and not just consumers of great technological advances – we are working as quickly as possible to establish the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund (NRF).

This will support, diversify, and transform Australia’s industry and economy to help create secure, well-paid jobs, secure future prosperity, and drive sustainable economic growth.

The NRF will provide finance (including loans, guarantees and equity) to drive investments that add value and develop capability in seven priority areas. This includes supporting key enabling capabilities.

The Government has earmarked $1 billion of NRF finance to expand Australia’s critical technology capability in areas such as quantum.

We want the growth capital being made available here, to build local capacity. You can’t have a better signal than that.

We are looking hard at how to improve diversity in our STEM workforce and ensure a pipeline of skilled workers to support quantum science and technology.

A top 20

At last count, Australia has over 20 quantum-related companies in Australia. This number is growing as Australian innovators make new discoveries and identify ways to commercialise them.

Companies like Quantum Brilliance, which is pioneering the way in  diamond-based quantum computing and building miniature computers that can operate at room temperature.

Quantum Brilliance is now working with the Pawsey supercomputer in Western Australia to host the world’s first diamond quantum accelerator.

Vikram Sharma’s QuintessenceLabs has developed quantum true random number generators that produce high quality cryptographic keys for cybersecurity. It’s already selling quantum-based cybersecurity solutions to leading companies globally.

Q-CTRL, led by Mike Biercuk, has developed software quantum control products that are used by leading international firms like IBM and Rigetti. The success of the company has seen the team grow from 80 to around 120 across its teams in Sydney, Los Angeles, and Berlin.

And I’ve seen this person right here, Michelle Simmons and the team at Silicon Quantum Computing in June last year SQC, a stand-out innovator. In June 2022, SQC announced it had created the world’s first integrated quantum computer circuit – that is, one that comprises the elements of a classical computer chip at quantum scale.

They’re not alone among Australian quantum computing excellence. Andrew Durak’s Diraq is fast making waves.

And PsiQuantum, whose co-founders include two Australians in Jeremy O’Brien and Terry Rudolph, are currently valued at over $5 billion AUD for their approach to building the world’s first quantum computer.

Our SMEs are branching out overseas – and global heavyweights like Google are partnering with Aussie research institutions to push the quantum envelope.

Quantum Brilliance, Q-CTRL and Nomad Atomics are setting up offices in Germany, and there is increased collaboration with UK companies.

Engaging globally

Quantum, by its very nature, is a global endeavour. No one country can hope to corner the market, as it were. Only by working together can we unlock quantum’s full potential.

To that end, we’re continuing to build relationships with international partners to create opportunities for Australian researchers and businesses.

In November 2021, for example, Australia signed a joint statement of cooperation in quantum technologies with the US. This statement will help bring our countries closer and provide opportunities to collaborate and bring use cases to life.

We will be using other international partnerships to further collaborate and advance quantum investment and capability.

I was recently in the States and struck by the number of Australians over there with world-leading science capabilities and cutting-edge technological know-how. In my first address as Minister for Industry and Science, I pledged to lure them home.

Come back expats

So here I am again, inviting expats back to Australia. We are turning Australia into a nation of makers, not just takers. We are building things.

We have built sensors that are being used to upgrade radars, we have begun to optimise traffic in our cities using quantum, and we are building chips that go into space.

The potential for growth and innovation over the next decade or so for technologies like quantum is enormous.

They are also technologies in which international competition is likely to be the most intense – and on which the benefits of cooperation are potentially greatest.

Quantum computing will turbocharge our ability to innovate across industries, creating new sectors in the process.

Quantum sensors could enable faster and more accurate civil engineering projects, allowing us to save time on infrastructure activities like roadworks.

Quantum encryption could help protect our government, businesses, and society.

Successfully delivering quantum’s extraordinary potential won’t be a walk in the park, however.

Research and workforce development efforts have to be coordinated; roadblocks negotiated.

Collaborations between individuals, institutions, and countries, will have to be encouraged and facilitated.

We have the building blocks in place – and soon we will have an overarching national vision and strategy to cap them.


  • This is an edited extract of an address delivered by science and innovation minister Ed Husic to the Quantum Australia conference in Sydney on February 22.