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“State of the Nation” Panel Discussion @ Quantum Australia Conference & Careers Fair 2023 Addresses Whether Australia Can Build a Successful Quantum Economy

Sydney Conference

The Quantum Australia conference and careers fair 2023, a three-day online and in-person event held from 21–23 February 2023 and organized to explore the theme ‘Building the foundations for a quantum economy’, kicked off this week at the Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park with a program that includes thought-provoking panels and presentations on the developments and innovative collaborations helping to realize the potential of quantum technologies and advance the talent pipeline in Australia and beyond.

Bringing together world-leading quantum researchers, businesses, government decision-makers, startups, and big tech to share developments and ideas, The Quantum Insider has the opportunity to attend the event virtually.

The first day started with a “Welcome to Country and Official Opening” by Brian Boyle, Chair of the Sydney Quantum Academy and Bernie Hobbs, the event’s MC, followed by a keynote by Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Cathy Foley.

The first panel discussion at the Quantum Australia Conference, entitled “State of the Nation”, featured Bronwyn Fox, Chief Scientist, CSIRO; Anthony Murfett, Head of Division for Technology and National Security, Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources; Kate Pounder, CEO of Tech Council of Australia; and Peter Turner, CEO of the Sydney Quantum Academy. Emma Johnston, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sydney, was the panel chair.

Building a Successful Quantum Economy

At the end of the discussion, the moderator asked the important question to the expert panel as to whether Australia — one of the leaders in quantum technology on the planet, both in the research a private sector — can build a successful quantum economy, and if it can, what is the one key thing they would emphasize as being important to achieving that goal.

We Can Do It!

“Yes, we can do it,” said Anthony Murfett. “And the reason I think we can do it because look at this crowd, we’ve got 400, it’s bigger this year. It’ll be bigger next year. We’ve got 22 companies already thinking about how quantum can contribute to the economy and engage, but one thing I think that we need to do is connect with the community, connect with teachers, connect with children and explain how they will be using quantum technologies in the future so they can see who they can be.”

Kate Pounder’s response was similar to Murfett’s, highlighting the ecosystem.

Ecosystem

“Well, I also think that we can do it. And I think the thing that we most need to get right is the ecosystem,” she began, mentioning the fact that no one feels accessible industries as individuals. “And you know, there’s never one ingredient that makes an ecosystem successful. It’s often over time there are different problems that you’re solving.”

She continued by saying that having a well-functioning ecosystem that can diagnose the most catalytic interventions at any one point in time, then solve them continuously over that time was important, though added that broadening relationships, and networks and engaging with the world is actually the key.

“Right now at this moment,” she went on, “I think funding is going to be the key because we are producing that pipeline and companies because we’ve got great research here but it’s getting from that stage of research and development through to commercialization. That will be the challenge.”

Peter Turner echoed Murfett’s response, stating Australia doesn’t just have the potential, it’s actually doing it as well as anyone else on Earth.

Sydney Quantum Academy

“It’s, I think, from my perspective, certainly from the SQA’s perspective, talent and workforce — as Anthony alluded to — how do we really get deeper down into the early career line to build this, you know, to address this looming shortage of people that are going to need to build this thing.”

Turner also thought it was important to mention that looking nationally at models like the Sydney Quantum Academy will really address the bigger picture in Australia.

“The National quantum collaboration initiative was mentioned in the recent government budget. So I mean, yeah, going forward, let’s as a community come together and engage on how we can take models like this forward to address that talent and workforce challenges.”

Bronwyn Fox, Chief Scientist at Australia’s national science agency, was last to give her opinion, though as could have been expected, her words aligned with those on the panel.

International Partnerships

“Absolutely, we can and I can’t emphasize enough for comments from Anthony, Kate and Peter on this panel today. I would like to just reiterate that trusted international partnerships for the national benefit are going to be really important to us and understanding our place in the world and that investment and inspiring next generation science leaders and talent,” she said, before plugging in that CSIRO is in fact hiring.

“We have recruited over 200 early and mid-career researchers in the last year and we are now specifically looking for anyone who’s interested in quantum technology to get in touch.”

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James Dargan is a writer and researcher at The Quantum Insider. His focus is on the QC startup ecosystem and he writes articles on the space that have a tone accessible to the average reader.

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