Google's investment in Australia could give a big boost to the country's artificial intelligence sector
Google announced Monday that it plans to build a new Google Australia research lab in Sydney as part of a 1 billion Australian dollar ($729 million) investment in Australia. The lab will study everything from artificial intelligence to quantum computing.
The move has been welcomed by Australian artificial intelligence researchers. For years, opportunities for the country's AI gurus were limited, they told CNBC.
Stephen Merity, an Australian artificial intelligence researcher who now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, told CNBC that Google should have launched Research Australia years ago, adding that there are many well-known Australians in the field.
"They almost all had to leave Australia to have an opportunity," he said."Those who stay are underutilized, including those at Google Sydney."
Google has several projects in Sydney, but the search giant's scope is relatively limited compared with places like Mountain View, where Google is based in London, Zurich, and Tokyo.
Jonathan Kummerfeld, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney, told CNBC that until recently, major tech companies had not set up LABS in Australia.
Amazon has opened a lab in Adelaide, while Oracle and IBM have set up artificial intelligence LABS in Melbourne. Companies like Facebook and Twitter have offices in Australia, but they don't have significant AI research teams there.
"The more Australia's industrial research ecosystem grows, the more companies will consider opening offices," Kummerfeld said.
"University departments have been growing strongly over the last decade as computer science enrollments have increased, and more faculty means more postdocs and doctoral students, but these are relatively few permanent positions," he added.
Google's investment will also be used to expand Google's cloud computing infrastructure in Australia and fund partnerships with local universities and other organizations. The investment plan, known as the Digital Future Initiative, is expected to create 6,000 jobs and support another 28,000. Google was launched at an event attended by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the official opening of Google's new Australian headquarters in Sydney.
"Google's announcement is a $1bn vote of confidence in Australia's digital economy strategy," Mr. Morrison said.
Earlier this year, Australian lawmakers criticized U.S. tech giants for failing to pay local news publishers for the content shared on their platforms. In response, Google Australia managing director MEL Silva threatened to block Google searches in the country.
Australia then became the first country in the world to make it a legal requirement for major tech companies like Google and Facebook(now Meta) to pay for news content on their platforms.