Illustration of computer chip

As part of the 2023-24 Budget, the government announced two programs to boost Australia’s quantum sector:

  • Australian Quantum Growth Centre
  • Critical Technologies Challenges Program.

Together, these programs make up a $60 million investment to grow Australia’s quantum ecosystem over 4 years. They mark the first set of actions to be delivered under the National Quantum Strategy.

Dr Cathy Foley, Australia’s Chief Scientist hosted the webinar. Dr Foley is Chair of the National Quantum Advisory Committee and recently led the development of the National Quantum Strategy on behalf of the government.

Dr Foley provided an overview of both programs and how they will help achieve the government’s vision for quantum.

Webinar registrants will be invited to participate in a series of consultations in the coming weeks.

Contact if you would like a copy of the webinar Q&A sheet.

Watch the webinar recording

Dr Cathy Foley

Hello and welcome. This is the first of what we expect will be several information sessions, which is regarding the ambition we have to create a quantum industry in Australia. And in this case, today, we're looking at the budget measures relating to quantum.

My name's Dr Cathy Foley. I'm Australia's Chief Scientist. And joining me today is Jacqueline Cooke, who's the manager of the Quantum Growth Department of Industry, Science and Resources.

So, as we like to do always is begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land we're all meeting on across Australia, and I think some people from overseas. I'm meeting on the lands of the Cammeraygal people up in northern part of Sydney, and I want to pay my respects to the Traditional Custodians of the lands of which we're gathering today, pay my respects to them, their Elders in the past, those in the present, and those who are going to be the Elders of the future. I also want to extend my respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are here today and say thank you for joining us.

I also want to say that today's information session will be sharing with you some of the details about the new quantum budget measures and the timelines. It's an opportunity for you to ask some questions and get a better understanding of the pathway ahead. And we'll be doing this not verbally, or we'll be doing it using the chat function just because there's a very large number of people coming on board today, and it will be unmanageable otherwise. So, I hope, if you've got any questions, please start putting them into the meeting chat, and we'll ask them after we go through the process there.

So, in this session, we're going to be looking at the details of the new budget measures and the timelines, as I mentioned. And I know that many of you will have questions. There will be an opportunity, though, after the formal presentations to really dig into that.

And we'll encourage you to keep questions short and focused, but also allow us to field as many as possible so we can make our way through that. If you can keep your microphone on mute, that will be really useful, just because there's so many people online. And thank you so much for joining us today. This is very exciting. So, as I mentioned, the questions can be asked... Oh, I see, not by the chat, it's the question-and-answer function. I'm sorry, I've got that wrong. This is a different tab to the chat function. So, if you go up the top there, you can see there's Question and Answer and you go on that one. The chat is for the chat, so we don't get them mixed up. And if there's any other questions that we don't get to today, we will follow them up with an email.

And so, if we go to the next slide, I just want to just remind everyone about the economic opportunity and benefits to business that quantum will bring and why this is such an important opportunity for Australia. Because quantum technology is going to be huge economically.

It's got the potential to transform a range of sectors, and that's including pharmaceuticals through to finance and resources, to space, defence, communications, I could go on. CSIRO has estimated that our quantum industry could be worth as much as $6.1 billion and employ over 19,000 Australians by 2045. So, this is a significant and important opportunity for us. It's also something that's based on decades of research that's come out of the university sector, and we're very well-placed. Additional analysis from the Centre of International Economics suggests that with rapid development and widespread uptake by industry, these technologies could contribute as much as $9 billion to Australia's GDP by 2045. So, we've got some really good inputs there. The 2022 Ernst and Young survey of over 1,500 UK executives suggested though we've still got some way to go. And the study indicated that there is widespread acceptance of disruptive potential of quantum, but then actually, relatively little action today in preparing for the potential risks and benefits.

So, the question is, how then do we ensure that the wider economy seizes this quantum opportunity? And the feedback you provided in the consultations from when we held the National Quantum Strategy preparation shows that the needs to change. Well, we heard what needs to change to drive the uptake and the growth. And we know that quantum companies need to build their customer bases and demonstrate their products in real-world environments, moving beyond a reliance on grants. The adjacent industries need to understand the benefits that quantum technologies can bring. And this is important to help incentivise investment in Australian quantum companies, but also to prepare the wider economy for transformative impacts that these technologies may have for years to come. So, driving this kind of shift in thinking across such a wide audience is no small task, as you can imagine. Quantum companies are rightfully focused on their products and their services and may lack the scale and resources required to effectively engage with potential end users.

It's end users also that may consider the prospect of investing time, attention, and resources in a nascent technology like quantum as being prohibitively risky, as they can't see easy, tangible, near-term outcomes. So, demonstrations of the capabilities quantum technologies can bring to bear on relevant industries and their problems and education about the benefits of quantum technology are going to be a critical part of the driving uptake and the investment.

So, if we go to the next slide, I just want to give you a bit of an overview of what we want to achieve in this session. So, in the federal budget a few weeks ago, and remember, we launched, the Minister for Science and Industry launched the strategy on the 5th of May, so just over a month ago. And the government in the budget announced two programs specifically aimed at growing the quantum technology industry in Australia. The Critical Technologies Challenge Program was one, and the Australian Centre for Quantum Growth was the other. And combined, these programs will make up $60 million of investment in developing the quantum ecosystem over the next four years, and they mark the beginning of the delivery of actions under the National Quantum Strategy, which I'm sure you've all read closely and can recite it off very easily.

So, the aim for today's information session is to provide an overview of the two programs. We want to invite you to participate in a series of consultations taking place in the coming weeks and months to ensure that the program addresses your needs. And to begin with, I want to manage expectations about how much we can reveal about these programs today, because they're at that stage of early nascent development. And that's why we're talking to you now and giving you an update so that then we can dig in and make sure that they're designed in a way that led to the outcomes that you need. There is a formal process the government needs to go through to develop grant guidelines for both programs. And until that process is complete, the guidelines are publicly released with all the information about the opportunities.

And so, anything so far should be considered indicative and subject to change. And that said, I hope by giving you a sense of what the government hopes to achieve with these programs and some of the indicative detail, we can answer some of the questions you may have about what the benefits of these programs will be and how the programs will work and how you can be involved.

So now I'd like to hand over to Jacqueline Cooke, to discuss the detail of the programs and the planned consultation activities. So, Jac is the manager for the Quantum Growth Team in the Department of Industry, Science and Resources, and she's responsible for delivering on the ambition of the quantum strategy. No small task, Jac, but over to you.

Jacqueline Cooke

Thanks, Dr Foley. Thanks. I'd just like to echo your Acknowledgement of Country. Thank you so much for that, it was lovely. And echo your thanks to everyone for making time today, especially as it's over lunchtime. So, appreciate everyone probably taking time over their lunch to join us.

So, just move on to the first part of what I'd like to talk about today, which is the first of the two programs announced under the budget. It's the Australian Centre for Quantum Growth, which will support the growth of the quantum technology industry in Australia. So, this will help to catalyse demand for quantum technologies and help Australian companies capture a share of the emerging global quantum technologies market. By following last year's consultation on the National Quantum Strategy, we understand that quantum companies need customers and investors to grow. We know that bringing adjacent industries on the quantum journey is critical to the adoption and uptake of quantum technologies and that smaller, pre-commercial start-ups may lack the resources to effectively promote the benefits of quantum technologies on their own.

We also know that international connections and networks are critical. Access to international supply chains and collaboration opportunities with Australia's quantum strategic partners are vital for industry growth. The Australian Centre for Quantum Growth is intended to address a number of these barriers to growth by providing up to $18.5 million in grant funding over four years for an existing organisation to deliver a range of industry growth services to the sector. These services might include things like supporting collaborative R&D opportunities. Oops, I've gone too far there. Supporting collaborative R&D opportunities, undertaking education and awareness activities, increasing international collaboration, export, and investment opportunities. And we, the Department, will consult with the quantum industry and researchers over the coming months to check the design of the program and identify potential improvements.

So, now I'm up to the next one. So, in terms of who can apply, this grant is going to be run as an open competitive process. In an open, competitive process, all eligible applications are compared to each other to determine those that could most effectively deliver the required services. So, we're still considering how the opportunities for co-investment in the Centre can be supported to ensure the Centre has the biggest impact possible. In terms of the timeline, we anticipate that the applications to deliver the Centre will open later this year, with the Centre's activities commencing from early 2024 until June 2027. And final details about the grant opportunity will be provided in the grant guidelines. But we're really interested through the consultations to hear what it is that what you think the Centre can best focus its efforts on and how it can amplify the government's investments.

The Critical Technologies Challenge Program is the other budget measure that was announced recently. And so, we understand increasing the number of end users of quantum technologies is key to the commercialisation of quantum technologies and that these end users need to see clear use cases to justify investment.

So, community awareness of quantum technologies is also low. People need to see the positive impact of quantum technology can have to build social licence and to increase the public's familiarity with quantum. The Critical Technologies Challenge Program will provide up to $36 million in grant funding to address challenges of national significance using quantum technologies, potentially in conjunction with other critical technologies such as robotics and artificial intelligence. Drawing on successful examples in Australia and around the world, it will use a challenge-based innovation approach to drive cooperation and collaboration between quantum researchers, start-ups and the wider community to demonstrate Australian capability, drive private sector demand, and de-risk the adoption of quantum technology across the economy. Who can apply? This grant will be available to Australian quantum researchers and quantum technology companies. Applicants will be expected to apply as part of a consortium to encourage closer connections across the ecosystem.

We're still considering a range of options, including, for example, providing funding for consortiums that include an organisation based in one of Australia's quantum strategic partner countries. We're also still considering the possibility of prioritising projects that can demonstrate co-investment from consortium partners. The grant structure itself. There'll be two challenge rounds, each comprising two stages. So, Stage 1 provides funding for feasibility studies. We anticipate grants for feasibility studies to be awarded in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Stage 2 will provide funding for technology demonstrator projects to demonstrate a proof of concept. We anticipate grants for the technology demonstrators to be in the $1-5 million range. Both rounds of the program will focus on challenges that can be addressed with quantum technologies. The challenges to be addressed will be determined through consultation with the research community, quantum sector and adjacent industries over the coming months.

Feasibility studies will be assessed by an expert panel, to be formed from within government to ensure probity. Meritorious projects will be invited to apply to the second stage for further funding through a closed competitive process. We're anticipating that applications for Round 1 feasibility grants will open in early 2024, with projects commencing mid-year. Successful technology demonstrator projects would commence from late 2025. And final details about the grant opportunity will obviously be provided in the grant guidelines.

But the other part of the conversation today is around the consultation schedule. And essentially, your input is going to be critical to the success of these programs. The Department's going to run a series of online consultation sessions over the coming months to ensure the programs deliver the right level of support and that they will grow the sector as intended. We'll also run additional consultation sessions over the coming months to identify the scope of the challenges that the Critical Technologies Challenge Program will address, including the design.

So, the consultations will be around the design of the Australian Centre for Quantum Growth in early July, the design of the Critical Technologies Challenge Program in early August, and consultation on the selection of the challenges from August to November in this year.

Everyone who's been invited to today's session, or who has volunteered to come along to today's session, will be receiving the invitation to these online consultations. Summaries of the consultation session outcomes will also be made available on request, if you can't make it, and we'll also be advertising opportunities to register for those sessions on and on various social media channels in coming days and weeks.

If you would like to participate in any of these sessions, or if you have any other questions, please contact the email address on the screen there, And that's really all I needed to fill you in on as a starting point. And now I'd like to pass back to Dr Foley to open the forum for some Q&A.

Dr Cathy Foley

Alright, so, please, if you do have a question, if you can put it into the Q&A session.

I actually haven't got any questions yet, so we're really keen to just hear if you've got any thoughts or any comments to make as well.

Image: Silicon Quantum Computing laboratory at UNSW Sydney. Credit: Silicon Quantum Computing.