CANBERRA – Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday announced a new plan to protect and promote technologies critical to the national interest, in a challenge to China’s emerging dominance in key strategic fields.
The initial focus would be on nine critical technologies on a list of 63. The top nine include quantum technologies that apply quantum physics to access, transmit and process vast quantities of information.
The technologies have major defense applications including enabling navigation where global positioning systems don’t work and helping protect Australia against advanced cyber attacks, Morrison said.
“I’m confident the new strategy will help position Australia as a quantum technology leader in the Indo-Pacific,” Morrison told a virtual conference hosted by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute think tank.
The list — which also includes artificial intelligence, advanced 5G communications and genetic engineering — could be used to prevent Chinese collaboration with Australian universities in certain types of research and to block some exports and foreign investment, The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper reported.
Physicists at the University of Science and Technology of China said in a statement last month that they had developed the world’s fastest programmable quantum computing system called Zuchongzhi 2.1.
Under the new plan, the Australian government would invest 70 million Australian dollars ($51 million) over a decade in a Quantum Commercialization Hub designed to help commercialize Australian quantum research and forge links with global markets and supply chains.
The hub would be designed to attract private investment and to partner with equivalent bodies among “like-minded nations,” Morrison said.
Australia has already signed such an agreement with the United States.
President Joe Biden, Morrison and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in September that Australia would acquire at least eight submarines powered with U.S. nuclear technology under a new trilateral alliance. Australia scrapped a AU$90 billion ($66 billion) contract with France to build 12 diesel-electric submarines.
Morrison said the three allies would report to their leaders by December on how to enhance joint capabilities in quantum technologies, cyber and artificial intelligence.
The United States, India, Japan and Australia were also deepening their technological partnerships through the strategic framework known as the Quad, Morrison said.