Australia prioritises 63 critical technologies including quantum and blockchain

AU$70 million will be put into building a new quantum commercialisation hub as part of Australia's Blueprint for Critical Technologies.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday announced its new Blueprint for Critical Technologies [PDF], which is a strategy aimed at protecting and promoting critical technologies, with quantum technology to be at the forefront of that.

"The blueprint sets out a vision for protecting and promoting critical technologies in our national interest. It aims to balance the economic opportunities of critical technologies with their national security risks. And it gives us the right framework to work domestically and with like-minded countries to support the further development of these technologies," Morrison said.

"Australia is already a global leader in several aspects of quantum technology. We have some world-class research capabilities and scientists, and strong foundations for a thriving quantum industry. Now, we need to take it to the next level."

The blueprint sets out four goals for Australia, which include having access to critical technologies and secure systems; being recognised as a trusted and secure partner in relation to critical technologies; preserving the integrity of local research in order to maximise its sovereign IP; and supporting regional resilience and shaping an international environment that enables open, diverse, and competitive markets and secure and trusted technological innovation.

Attached to the blueprint is an action plan [PDF], which has set out a list of critical technologies that the federal government will prioritise as part of the blueprint to build out the country's critical technology infrastructure. The action plan defines critical technologies as current and emerging technologies with the capacity to significantly enhance or pose risk to our national interest.

Among those included in the list of 63 critical technologies are 5G and 6G, advanced imaging systems, AI and machine learning, blockchain, high-performance computing, protective cybersecurity technologies, robotics, and various areas of quantum.

The blueprint's action plan also details AU$111 million will be put into building out Australia's quantum sector. The local quantum community has long called for the federal government to place resources into helping it commercialise quantum research, with the Australian Information Industry Association previously saying it was a "sad indictment that Australia doesn't have a national quantum strategy".

AU$70 million of that amount will be allocated towards building a quantum commercialisation hub. The hub will be tasked with building strategic partnerships with "likeminded countries" to commercialise Australia's quantum research and help Australian businesses access new markets and investors.

"The hub will be designed to attract private co-investment and to partner with equivalent bodies among like-minded nations. The first step is a joint cooperation agreement which the government has signed with the United States," Morrison said.

The federal government will also create a national quantum strategy and quantum technologies prospectus. The strategy will be informed by a National Committee on Quantum that will be led by Australia's chief scientist Cathy Foley and comprise various industry stakeholders and experts.

"Australia now has an important mission to commercialise our research, particularly given quantum technologies are increasingly vital for industries in key areas like defence and national security, as flagged in the recent AUKUS agreement," Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price said.

The new Blueprint for Critical Technologies also provided more information on how the Quad would share information with each other. The blueprint's action plan outlined that, alongside the new quantum hub, an Australia-India Centre of Excellence for Critical Technologies will also be built. The centre, to be co-led by "two prominent Australian and Indian figures", will be focused on developing multidisciplinary policy advice and associated products to inform key commercial and national security interests.

In announcing the new plan, Morrison added that officials from the Australian, UK, and US governments have started to develop a work plan for the trilateral AUKUS security pact.

"The work plan will involve exchanges of information, personnel, and advanced technologies and capabilities; joint planning, capability development, and acquisitions; joint collaboration in science and technology; and developing common and complementary security and defence-related science and industrial bases," Morrison said.

The AUKUS work plan will be provided to the three governments' leaders in the next 90 days, he said.

The slew of announcements follow Australian US Embassy Chargé d'Affaires Michael Goldman, who appeared at yesterday's Google's Future Initiative press event, saying that the AUKUS arrangement would provide more technology sharing between Australia and the US.

"You've heard a lot about submarines lately. Well, I'd like to posit that the AUKUS arrangement, it's about more than submarines as deeply consequential as that is. It's about technology sharing, it's about trust, it's about enabling our two peoples to reach their fullest potential across a whole range of exciting technologies," Goldman said.

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