Address at Quantum Australia Conference

Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park

I begin by acknowledging the Gadigal people of the Eora nation, the traditional custodians of this land, and pay my respects to elders past and present.

I extend that respect to all other First Nations people in the audience today.

Thank you, Peter Turner for putting on this incredible event, which has brought together quantum researchers and industry not only within Australia but from around the world.

It is truly inspiring to see such a diverse representation of global talent gathered here to share their knowledge and experiences. 

I see a range of members of our National Quantum Advisory Committee here, like Mike Biercuk, Vikram Sharma, Clare Birch and Michelle Simmons.

Peter and his team have also lured here representatives of companies, institutions, and individuals from around the world.

People like Mark Hodson, Barry Saunders, Araceli Venegas-Gomez, and Christian Weedbrook.

And Australians who have gone overseas to build incredible quantum companies, and are back sharing their experiences today: it’s a pleasure to be following Jeremy O’Brien, CEO for PsiQuantum.

I recently visited PsiQuantum’s headquarters in Palo Alto, mind-blowing progress they’re making in their ambition to build the world’s first fault tolerant quantum computer. 

And of course, I cannot forget Australia’s strongest quantum champion, our Chief Scientist and Chair of the National quantum Advisory Committee, Dr Cathy Foley. 

Cathy is one of your most powerful advocated for the transformative potential of quantum technologies in this country, and an expert in the field. 

Many of you will have heard her keynote address yesterday on what Australia is doing to grow the sector and realise its huge potential. 

Now, I hear there’s been a rumour I’d be using today to launch the government’s National Quantum Strategy. 

For those hoping to see the detail today, sorry.

You’ll have to wait a little longer.

It is coming. And I want to thank the work Dr Foley and the National Quantum Advisory Committee put into shaping that strategy. 

Your expertise, experience and honesty have been invaluable.

We are determined that the National Quantum Strategy be the beginning of a conversation, not a punctuation mark before moving on to the next thing.

We are determined that it set a vision and principles to shape Australia’s leadership that can be built on for years to come. 

I want to be clear here. 

The Australian Government believes in this critical opportunity for Australia. 

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.

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. 

The strategy could not have been done without your support, so thank you again. 

The level of interest and participation throughout the consultation period reaffirms the importance of backing Australia’s quantum opportunity.

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.

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.

Last month, we provided $880,000 to support the Quantum Girls’ project in Western Australian.

This project aims to train 200 female teachers, who will then teach quantum science and quantum computing to 11-15-year-old girls. 

It will feature group activity-based learning, short teacher-instruction videos, and female role models who will inspire students through national Quantum-Girls’ hackathons and Quantum-Girls after school STEM clubs.

We also know that we need to foster the right environment – one which considers regulation that promotes innovation while protecting Australia’s interests.

And we will need to bridge the gap between research and its translations and commercialisation into products and services. 

These are all critical issues that the strategy will speak to.

We can, and should, aim for global leadership.

That we can aspire to do this is down to many individuals, starting with our scientists and researchers.

Their distinguished contributions to the quantum field date back to 1960 when Guy White published Experimental Techniques in Low-Temperature Physics.

Those following in Guy’s footsteps have contributed to important theoretical breakthroughs, including in silicon quantum computing, photonics, and cold-atom systems.

Their science has found its way out of research labs and into industry use, spawning a growing number of start-ups and SMEs.

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 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.

To everyone here today, understand the Government backs you – in research, in commercialisation, and in in growing your company.

I want to speak briefly about international cooperation and engagement.

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. 

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.

We have the capital to invest through the NRF. 

And the energy, as a Government, to deliver. 

I want you to individually succeed and collectively prosper. 

And I want the country to celebrate your achievements – and back you into the future. 

Thank you.