(FinancialReview) Legislation requiring overseas investors in Australian quantum computing start-ups to undergo a lengthy approval process by the Foreign Investment Review Board is scaring off potential investors and threatens to strangle the industry in its infancy, warns Michael Biercuk, CEO of Q-CTRL. Biercuk, chief executive of the Sydney-based start-up Q-CTRL, which makes technology that reduces errors in quantum computers. Biercuk said Australia’s quantum technology industry is in a position where the government would not fund it properly, but would not let anyone else fund it either.
In a national security guidance note in July, FIRB listed quantum computing as subject to mandatory review requirements if the technology is being developed for military purposes, and it “encouraged” foreign persons to seek investment approval for investments in non-military quantum technologies.The guidance note also made it clear that all investment from foreign military sources now needed to be approved by FIRB.
Since its inception in the 1990s, Australia’s quantum computing industry has been primarily backed by the US government, with most of that money being funnelled in via the US Army Research Office. ”What [FIRB] doesn’t understand is that, in the US in particular, defence agencies are the No. 1 funder of basic scientific research. It’s just the structure of the funding system,” Professor Biercuk said.
Andrew Horsley, CEO of Canberra-based start-up Quantum Brilliance, said the new investment regulations would be workable if the review process “had an ultra-fast turnaround”, and if large overseas sources of funding for quantum computing research, such as the Army Research Office, could be white-listed for automatic approval.
The FIRB said the rules were in line with similar laws now being implemented around the world. “Australia is not alone in recognising and responding to these risks. Many other countries – including Canada, China, the EU, India, Japan, New Zealand, the UK and the US – have recently updated their foreign investment rules to allow more scrutiny over potentially sensitive transactions.“