September 22, 2021

Australian industry body calls for more investment in quantum commercialisation


The Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) is concerned the federal government has not placed enough resources into commercialising the local quantum computing scene, calling it a “sad indictment that Australia doesn’t have a national quantum strategy”.

“We are in a position of thought leadership and in some ways, we do lead the way. But our concern is that based on global trends, if we don’t take the steps necessary to maintain our position, and we’re not taking those steps, then we will in fact lose our leadership position, lose our resources, lose our IP, lose our skills, and our thought leaders,” AIIA CEO Ron Gauci told ZDNet.

“What we’ve seen quantum and AI in particular, across several industries, is we’re already starting to fall behind.”

In a white paper [PDF], titled Growing Globally Competitive Industries: Powered by Australia’s innovation technology, the industry body made two recommendations in the area of quantum computing, which are for government to implement a national quantum technology strategy and create a national quantum computing centre.

In recommending a national strategy, the AIIA said any strategy that is made should translate to further investment, specifically in the commercialisation of quantum. The white paper said government investment towards commercialising quantum computing initiatives has been fragmented.

Explaining this “fragmentation” in Australia’s quantum scene, the white paper says the various local quantum technology roadmaps and reports that have been released in the past year all have various aims and recommendations, which “highlights the local fragmentation and the need for focus”.

“Federal and some state governments have made significant investments and established important initiatives, however, there has been piecemeal approach to industry development, which contrasts with what other countries are doing and there are smaller economies that are more advanced than us, not just the US,” Gauci said.  

The white paper added that investment amounts for commercialisation in Australia have been much less when compared to other western countries like Canada, the US, and the UK. The UK has so far invested over £1 billion in combined investment. By comparison, Australia’s cumulative investment since the start of the century is around AU$500 million, according to an Australian Strategy Policy Institute report published four months ago.

While noting Australia’s historically poor reputation for commercialising research and development, Archer CEO Dr Mohammad Choucair told ZDNet late last year that Australia was leading the world in the quantum space.

“We really are leading the world; we well and truly punch above our weight when it comes to the work that’s been done, we lead the world,” he said at the time.

“And that quantum technology is across quantum computing and photonics, and sensing — it’s not just quantum computing. We do have a lot of great scientists and those who are developing the technology.”

Looking at the commercialisation of technology in Australia as a whole, the AIIA recommended for the federal government to conduct a comprehensive review of how Australia supports innovation, from ideation through to commercialisation with the objective of creating a national framework for support and recommending how existing gaps can be addressed.

“The AIIA recognises that there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to supporting innovation. Rather we argue that government and industry must continually work together to identify the best (and most efficient) mechanisms to support innovation from ideation to large scale commercialisation,” the white paper says.  

Other recommendations in the white paper, 80 were made in total, included the AIIA calling for a new standalone oversight body and governance framework specifically focused on agtech, a dedicated AU$10 million agtech funding stream, and funding to establish a pilot agtech regional innovation centre.

The industry body similarly recommended for government to establish innovation centres or hubs in the areas of AI and digital twins.

For cybersecurity, the AIIA recommended that government incentivise and prioritise increased investment to grow Australia’s cyber workforce pipeline; develop global partnerships to ensure continued access to secure critical technology supply chains; create clear articulations about technologies that are deemed as critical, the applicable security requirements, and greater visibility of the threats when using these technologies; and identify areas of critical technologies where Australia has competitive advantages and economic opportunities.

The industry body also called for government to identify, promote, and prioritise new, scalable digital delivery models to meet Australia’s health care systems. It also recommended that government work with industry to ensure standards alignment and interoperability for digital health; develop a national capability or platform designed to provide interoperability and integration; build a digital development assistant aimed at helping health organisations meet cyber security protocols.

The overall theme of these recommendations, Gauci said, was that the federal government needed to provide more investment across all areas of technology.

“What we’ve been trying to get through to government is that if we don’t actually become globally competitive we will end up being a country of consumers, which will have flow-on effects for every aspect that are very clear across every industry,” he said.

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