This page belongs to: Action Plan for Critical Technologies

Government actions to protect and promote critical technologies

New government actions to protect and promote critical technologies

  • Quantum Commercialisation Hub
  • Australia-India Centre of Excellence for Critical Technology Policy

Quantum Commercialisation Hub

The development, commercialisation and adoption of quantum technologies could deliver Australia $4 billion in economic value and create 16,000 new jobs by 2040. There are also national security dividends. Quantum technologies will be key to Australia’s future defence and national security capabilities, and vital in shielding our public and private sectors from advanced cyber attacks.

Australia is already a global leader in several areas of quantum technologies, including sensing, but requires targeted government action to unlock greater private sector investment and create a self-sustaining quantum industry. At present, there are supply side and demand side barriers to scaling a quantum technologies sector. On the supply side, quantum technologies are expensive to produce and take a long time to get to the stage where there is a ‘product’ to sell. There is also a lack of coordination in the sector preventing scale-up. On the demand side, Australia’s small market size means we cannot support a sector based on domestic demand alone. In addition, Australia – rightfully – protects our quantum technology companies, products and expertise through a range of mechanisms such as foreign investment and defence export controls. Industry says this chills demand for products and overseas investment in Australia.

To address these challenges and take advantage of the opportunities presented by quantum, the Government is seeking to establish the Quantum Commercialisation Hub to work with like-minded countries to help commercialise Australia’s quantum research, coalesce action around areas where Australia can have a comparative advantage, slot into international supply chains and improve access to international customers and investors.

The Hub will be established with Commonwealth and industry co-funding, focused on commercialising quantum research and building market demand for Australian products, both domestically as well as in partner countries. It will create global supply chain opportunities and support the collaborative, mutually beneficial exchange of skills in a way that supports our national security and economic interests. It will also support joint commercialisation projects and joint ventures. The Hub will leverage existing quantum technology infrastructure and work with states and territories to ensure a joined up, national approach. The establishment of the Hub with international partners will help to create pathways for investment from trusted sources and send a powerful signal to global investors acting as a counterbalance to Australia’s legitimate foreign investment and export controls.

Enabling Australian-based quantum companies to more easily access international markets and supply chains will drive investment in Australia’s quantum industry and support the onshore retention of Australian talent and businesses, which will be a fundamental driver of growth in Australia’s quantum industry.

The Hub proposal builds on CSIRO’s quantum technology roadmap, and supports the 2021 Digital Economy Strategy and the Government’s Blueprint for Critical Technologies. Additionally, it will assist in the development of enabling, crosscutting technologies that will underpin the future of Australian manufacturing and growth of the National Manufacturing Priority areas, as outlined in the Modern Manufacturing Strategy.

Australia‐India Centre of Excellence for Critical and Emerging Technologies

The establishment of an Australia-India Centre of Excellence for Critical and Emerging Technologies will:

  • Strengthen our partnership with India – the world’s second largest internet market and powerhouse in critical technology policy;
  • Seek to shape technology governance so that it aligns with our values and supports an open, inclusive and resilient Indo‐Pacific;
  • Reduce delays in policy and regulatory development for new and emerging technologies;
  • Promote investment opportunities and innovation between Australia and India in technology; and
  • Serve as a prototype for a broader Indo‐Pacific critical technology network.

Experts will work closely to develop multidisciplinary policy advice and associated products to help guide the responsible development and use of critical technologies. Inclusive programs for women and youth in tech will underpin the objective of an open, citizen‐centric model of technology governance. Fellowships for Quad and ASEAN partners will expand the Centre’s reach and impact.

The Centre of Excellence is among the flagship initiatives of Australia’s new Action Plan for Critical Technologies, and an important part of delivering on Australia’s strategy for protecting and promoting technologies, the Blueprint for Critical Technologies. The Centre will promote Australia as a trusted partner for investment, research, innovation and collaboration, and support regional resilience and competitive, trusted and diverse technology innovation markets. It will provide a practical platform for Australia and India to work together to shape technology governance that aligns with our values and supports an open, inclusive and resilient Indo-Pacific.

It builds on the Prime Minister‐led Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) commitments to enhance cooperation in our cyber and critical technology relationship with India ; supports Australia’s domestic Digital Economy Strategy; our International Cyber and Critical Technologies Engagement Strategy; and the Quad ‘Principles on Technology Design, Development, Governance, and Use’.

Existing government initiatives to protect and promote critical technologies

The following existing initiatives demonstrate the Government is pre-emptively seizing opportunities and mitigating risks across the critical technologies landscape. These existing initiatives align closely with the Government's new short list of critical technologies. The initiatives include:

  • Australia’s Civil Space Program
  • 5G and Future Connectivity Initiatives
  • The AI Action Plan
  • The National Hydrogen Strategy
  • The Medical Research Future Fund

Australia’s Civil Space Program

Australia’s Civil Space Strategy

The Australian Civil Space Strategy 2019-28 outlines the Australian Government’s plans to transform and grow our space industry. The sector’s potential is recognised in the Strategy. It sets out an ambition to triple the Australian space industry market size from $3.9 billion to $12 billion and create an additional 20,000 jobs by 2030. Spill over effects will see further jobs and economic growth. Since 2018 the Australian Government has invested more than $700 million in the civil space sector as part of its plan to grow the sector.

Every day, modern Australia relies on space- based technology for critical services including communications and internet, navigation and positioning, and infrastructure monitoring, as well as responding to emergencies such as extreme weather events and bushfires.

The Australian Government is developing a suite of technical roadmaps under each of the six National Civil Space Priority Areas to inform investment opportunities for Australia. The following best align with the Government’s List of Critical Technologies in the National Interest:

  • Communications Technologies and Services – satellite communications (SATCOM) allow communications where regular radio communications and telecommunications cables are not available or viable. For example, SATCOM is critical for communications with ships in maritime jurisdictions.
  • Earth Observation – Earth observation from satellites enables images to be taken from space for multiple uses, for example monitoring bushfires, water resources and agricultural land.
  • Space Situational Awareness – space situational awareness (SSA) is the tracking and monitoring of satellites and space debris using ground based assets such as telescopes and radars. It is essential for space traffic management (expected to be published in December 2021).
  • Remote Operations and Robotics – Australia is a world leader in remote asset management in industries such as mining, oil and gas. Australia can leverage this capability for remote operation and exploration in space (expected to be published in December 2021).
  • Position, Navigation and Timing – position, navigation and timing (PNT) satellites provide precise location and timing signals used across industries such as banking, civil aviation and shipping (expected to be published mid-2022).
  • Access to Space – access to space refers to launch capability, for example enabling satellites to be launched into space (expected to be published mid-2022).

Increasing collaboration with international partners

The Australian government is expanding collaboration with international partners on civil space in order to maximise opportunities for the space sector. In September 2021, Australia joined Quad leaders to announce collaboration on opportunities to share satellite data for peaceful purposes such as monitoring climate change, disaster response and preparedness, sustainable uses of oceans and marine resources, and responding to challenges in shared domains. Australia will also deepen space cooperation with the United States and the United Kingdom through AUKUS.

Future initiatives

The completion of the technical roadmaps for each National Civil Space Priority Area in 2022 will provide the Australian Government with an additional range of opportunities to develop further initiatives to address critical gaps in the space sector.

5G and future connectivity initiatives

The Government is committed to protecting Australia's current and future connectivity. The networks Australians and our economy rely upon now and into the future must support trusted, safe and secure connections online. Australians, businesses and governments are increasingly relying on mobile connectivity to work, study and socialise.

The security and economic success of Australia’s current and future telecommunications networks are dependent on early action to pre-emptively identify and address risks and stimulate diversity in the market. The deployment of 5G (and, in future, 6G) communications without proper safeguards could create vulnerabilities that deliberately or inadvertently cause disruption, with cascading effects for Australia’s economy, security, and sovereignty. To meet this challenge and advance the Government’s vision of being a leading digital economy by 2030, work is underway to support 5G deployment and security, future telecommunications (6G) security, and scale these efforts internationally.

5G deployment

The Government is supporting the timely rollout of 5G in Australia to enable the next wave of industry productivity, and to promote the growth of Australia’s digital economy.

Industry expects, and needs, to lead the deployment of 5G. Government also has a role in supporting network rollout by modernising policy and regulatory frameworks and removing barriers that would delay rollout and adoption unnecessarily. The Government is supporting the early deployment of 5G in Australia by:

  • Making spectrum available in a timely manner;
  • Actively engaging in international spectrum harmonisation activities;
  • Streamlining arrangements to allow mobile carriers to deploy infrastructure more quickly; and
  • Reviewing existing telecommunications regulatory arrangements to ensure they are fit-for-purpose.

5G innovation

5G is expected to be foundational digital infrastructure for many sectors, and will support the uptake of digital tools. Wider adoption of 5G will allow businesses to automate routine tasks, gather more detailed data about their activities, and develop new products and services, all of which can contribute to business productivity and growth.

The Australian 5G Innovation Initiative is supporting businesses to deliver 5G trials and testbeds, and demonstrating benefits of 5G technology in a range of sectors. These trials will demonstrate emerging 5G uses to help build Australia’s 5G ecosystem.

In total, 19 successful projects, spanning key sectors of the economy including agriculture, construction, manufacturing and transport, have received nearly $20 million in funding. One example of the projects funded under the program is testing 5G to live stream 3D construction site scans to office workers, such as engineers, for review and input. Using this technology, workers can immediately receive feedback and input from office workers, without the need for scheduled meetings, travel, safety inductions and other time, cost, and safety constraints. The application will reduce delays and errors, helping ensure that projects are constructed as planned and delivered on time and within budget.

Funding: $22.1 million

Future connectivity security initiatives

The Government has legislative and regulatory mechanisms in place to uplift the security by design of Australia’s 5G and future connectivity networks. New legislative reforms, including the Security Legislation Amendment (Critical Infrastructure) Bill 2020, complement existing obligations under Telecommunications Sector Security Reforms to the Telecommunications Act 1997, helping to uplift the security and resilience of Australia’s networks.

As well as this, the Department of Home Affairs is implementing two programs to improve the security of Australia’s 5G and future connectivity networks under the Government’s Digital Economy Strategy:

The ‘Secure-G’ Connectivity Test Lab will encourage the diversification of the 5G equipment market and secure Australia’s future connectivity. Co-designed with industry, the test lab will enable businesses to test measures, protocols, standards and software that underpin transparent and secure 5G connectivity. The test lab will also support new companies to test innovative secure technology solutions that support a competitive and diverse telecommunications market, helping them scale and be commercialised.

The 6G security and development program will support foundational research into the security requirements of 6G and future connectivity technologies. This will enable Australia to stay ahead of the curve by ensuring technologies are designed with security in mind from the ground-up, and help to shape international future connectivity standards in a way that aligns with Australia’s values and expectations around security.

Concurrent to these programs, Home Affairs is exploring the viability, security and regulatory implications of Open Radio Access Network (Open RAN) solutions within the Australian domestic context, to promote telecommunications market diversification.

Funding: $32 million

Working internationally on future connectivity security

International efforts are essential to the advancement of our future connectivity security and the Australian Government will continue to work through the Quad and other international forums, like the Prague 5G Security Conference and the Five Countries Ministerial process, as well as bilaterally with likeminded partners across the globe, to share information and inform national and international telecommunications security priorities—including market diversification, supply chain security, and critical infrastructure legislative reform. Success in these key forums will be key in ensuring secure by design advanced telecommunications well into the future.

AI Action Plan

To show it is serious about Australia’s vision to be a global leader in developing and adopting AI, the Australian Government invested $124.1 million in new, targeted measures associated with the AI Action Plan in the 2021-22 Budget. This brings the Government’s total investment in direct AI support since 2018 to $470 million.

Australia’s AI Action Plan sets out a shared vision for Australia to be a global leader in developing and adopting trusted, secure and responsible artificial intelligence (AI). It outlines the Australian Government’s actions to realise this vision and ensure all Australians will share the benefits of an AI-enabled economy.

As a key part of the Government’s Digital Economy Strategy, the AI Action Plan supports businesses to enter new markets, invest in their own digital transformation, and deliver globally competitive products and services. Building our domestic capability in AI also ensures we are well prepared to counter national security threats, while simultaneously supporting innovation and developing Australia’s AI expertise in areas of competitive strength.

The AI Action Plan will be implemented under 4 focus areas.

  • Focus 1: Developing and adopting AI to transform Australian businesses – support to help businesses develop and adopt AI technologies to create jobs and increase their productivity and competitiveness
  • Focus 2: Creating an environment to grow and attract the world’s best AI talent – support to ensure our businesses have access to world-class talent and expertise
  • Focus 3: Using cutting edge AI technologies to solve Australia’s national challenges – support to harness Australia’s world-leading AI research capabilities to solve national challenges, and ensure all Australians have an opportunity to benefit from AI
  • Focus 4: Making Australia a global leader in responsible and inclusive AI – support to ensure AI is inclusive and technologies are built to reflect Australian values

The AI Action Plan aligns with other priority areas of Government, including our Modern Manufacturing Strategy. This strategy will see Australia recognised as a high-quality and sustainable manufacturing nation, and create jobs for current and future generations. It is also consistent with:

  • Our commitment to creating a safer online world for Australians through our Cyber Security Strategy 2020
  • Our desire to create a high-skilled workforce for jobs of the future
  • The Government’s commitment to provide the right incentives to businesses and innovators through lower taxes.

National Hydrogen Strategy

The Australian Government has invested over $1.2 billion to specifically support delivery of the actions agreed in the National Hydrogen Strategy and to help accelerate the hydrogen industry’s growth. This is complemented by billions more in funding committed to related clean energy technology, manufacturing and infrastructure support. These investments into the Australian hydrogen industry could generate more than 8,000 jobs, many in regional Australia, and over $11 billion a year in GDP by 2050. They will also advance the goals of the Technology Investment Roadmap as we ramp up our efforts to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 whilst also supporting economic growth and lowering energy costs.

Why Hydrogen?

Hydrogen is a flexible, safe, transportable and storable fuel. It can be used to power vehicles and generate heat and electricity. When used as a fuel, hydrogen’s only by-product is water. Clean hydrogen refers to hydrogen produced with zero or low emissions. This is possible with hydrogen that is produced from electrolysis powered by renewable electricity or from fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas where a substantial amount of the resulting carbon emissions are captured and permanently stored.

Australia has a mix of all the key ingredients needed to be a major global player in a thriving clean hydrogen industry. We have abundant land and low cost renewable electricity generation, with some of the most consistent wind and solar resources in the world. We also have extensive fossil fuel energy reserves and stable carbon storage sites, ideal for fossil fuel based hydrogen production.

Australia has a rapidly growing clean hydrogen sector. In June 2021, Australia had the world’s largest pipeline of announced hydrogen projects. If all these projects are completed, Australia could be one of the world’s largest hydrogen producers by 2030. There are over 70 projects under development across Australia, with 16 projects that are operating or under construction and a further ten projects at an advanced stage of development planning. These projects span the hydrogen supply chain, including hydrogen production from renewables, gas blending trials, transport trials, storage projects, ammonia production, and feasibility studies for export supply chains, among others.

National Hydrogen Strategy

To capture the opportunity presented by the hydrogen industry, Australian governments have developed a National Hydrogen Strategy, released in November 2019.

The Strategy includes 57 nationally coordinated government actions that are the first steps for industry development.

Actions are themed around national coordination, developing production capacity supported by: local demand; responsive regulation; international engagement; innovation, research and development; skills and workforce development; and earning community confidence.

Government action to support hydrogen industry growth

All levels of government are delivering the Strategy and taking early actions to overcome barriers facing the industry. So far, the Australian Government has:

  • Built international relationships, including partnership agreements with Germany, Singapore and Japan, to build hydrogen supply chains and advance technology research
  • Developed a proposed approach for a domestic hydrogen Guarantee of Origin scheme and helped shape the design of an international methodology
  • Announced hydrogen funding programs, including $464 million for the ‘Activating a Regional Hydrogen Industry: Clean Hydrogen Industrial Hubs’ program
  • Invested over $300 million to support development of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and carbon capture, use and storage (CCUS) projects
  • Awarded over $100 million to three 10 MW hydrogen electrolyser projects through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)
  • Provided more than $300 million in funding for research, development and demonstration activities through the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC)

State and territory governments are helping develop the industry by implementing the National Hydrogen Strategy and their own hydrogen strategies. Together, the federal, state and territory governments have collaborated on a number of fronts, including regulatory frameworks, infrastructure, skills and regional investments in hydrogen hubs.

Medical Research Future Fund

The Medical Research Future Fund incentivises investment in critical health technologies

The Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) is a $20 billion long-term investment supporting Australian health and medical research. MRFF activities put patients at the core, with a focus on translating research into practice to benefit all Australians.

Investments are made according to national priorities, supporting research in areas of unmet need or with transformational potential. The Australian Medical Research Advisory Board (AMRAB), an independent group of experts, sets the MRFF strategy and priorities following consultation with the Australian public. The MRFF strategy and priorities inform Australian Government investment in MRFF funding. The strategy and priorities are set in accordance with the Medical Research Future Fund Act 2015, and require regular consultation with the public.

The MRFF invests across 4 research themes (Patients, Researchers, Research Missions, and Research Translation) and supports projects that leverage cutting edge precision medicine technologies

MRFF funding aligns with the List of Critical Technologies in the National Interest, particularly those relating to biotechnology, healthcare, and vaccines. Many of the currently funded projects leverage techniques in biological manufacturing, biomaterials, genetic engineering, next generation sequencing, nanobiotechnology, nanoscale robotics, and neural engineering, including:

  • ‘Anatomics – 3D printing and the manufacture of 'StarPore', a novel porous polyethylene implant material’ is a breakthrough implant material now applied in facial implants for reconstructive surgery, with devices made in Australia and shipped internationally.
  • ‘ZERO Childhood Cancer National Precision Medicine Program’ – A World-leading personalised medicine trial for <21 year olds with high-risk cancer that aims to identify the genetic drivers of each cancer and tailor treatments for increased survival with reduced side-effects. Early results (Oct 2020) showed 70% of children who received the recommended, personalised treatment, had a positive response (tumour stopped growing, shrank, or completely regressed). Currently, over 500 children are enrolled. By the end of 2023, all Australian children with cancer will be able to participate.
  • ‘Mackenzie’s Mission’ – A project that identifies a couple’s risk of having a child with a severe genetic condition, giving couples family planning choices. It will evaluate the outcomes of screening while addressing concerns (psychosocial impacts that couples report, the test’s health economic impacts, ethical issues). Up to 10,000 couples will take part.
  • ‘Treating muscle injury and wasting disorders’ – Using muscle stem cells, the project identified a new function for a molecule to activate the body’s own muscle stem cells to repair injury or disease. This could change treatment options for the tens of thousands of Australians experiencing the debilitating effects of muscle injuries and wasting diseases.

Next steps…

The Government will apply a rigorous analytical framework to determine whether any policy gaps exist, or may emerge, for critical technologies in the national interest.

Where gaps exist, the Government will evaluate existing policy levers and consider introducing new policies.