Dr Sue Keay says there are plenty of opportunities with new technologies. Picture: AAP/Mark Calleja
Dr Sue Keay says there are plenty of opportunities with new technologies. Picture: AAP/Mark Calleja

One million jobs up for grabs - but there's a catch

UP TO ONE one million new jobs can be created in Queensland over the next 20 years if the state seizes the opportunities from automation, artificial intelligence and other megatrends.

A new report to be released today by the CSIRO's Data61 unit says the state is entering a high stakes era of economic disruption which can deliver new global markets, higher incomes and improved lifestyles - or put hundreds of thousands of traditional workers in jeopardy.

"Research estimates that approximately 868,000 current-day jobs are 'at risk', primarily from task automation over coming decades," the Innovation Imperative report warns.

"At risk doesn't mean the job will disappear, but it does mean that the person doing the job will need to transition their skills, either to continue in their position or to find a new one."

Coinciding with the report's release, the Queensland Government will today announce a broad review of the state's innovation strategy.

"We need to look not just at what the government is doing, but at the innovation system as a whole," Innovation Minister Kate Jones said.

"The role of universities and research institutes is critical along with innovation in business and industry which helps drive our competitiveness."

The CSIRO Data61 report - which had the working title "Shift Happens" - said 36 per cent of the Queensland workforce, accounting for $51 billion in wages, super and other costs, was at risk of disruption from digitisation and automation by 2038.

It highlights seven industries facing "considerable transition challenges" - manufacturing, mining, construction, retail, warehousing, postal and administrative services.



While southeast Queensland would have the largest number of workers affected, the impact would be disproportionately high in regions such as Mackay-Isaac-Whitsundays, Central Queensland, Darling-Downs-Maranoa, Somerset and Cape York-Gulf.

"But it is a double-sided coin. There's massive opportunity too," CSIRO senior principal scientist (strategy and foresight) Stefan Hajkowicz said.

The development of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence would become a major growth industry itself and Brisbane's technology sector was developing quickly.

The state was also positioned to benefit from the "flight to quality'' with rising wealth in the Asia-Pacific region creating demand for adventure, nature and luxury tourism, as well as food and agricultural produce.

The growth of the mining services sector would complement demand for Queensland's higher quality coal and rare minerals including scandium (used in fuel cells), tantalum (mobile phones), niobium (superconducting magnets) and cobalt (hybrid vehicle batteries) have been discovered here.

"The change is coming," Dr Hajkowicz said.

"It's going to happen and we have to make it work for Queensland so there are good jobs for our kids."

The report said the state had to prioritise investment in technologies that would diversify the economy, take a global customer outlook and support high-growth "frontier firms'' to foster talent and research and development activity.

It points out that Amazon's $20.6 billion R&D expenditure in 2016 was 10 times the total of all Queensland businesses combined.

Dr Sue Keay says there are plenty of opportunities with new technologies. Picture: Mark Calleja/AAP
Dr Sue Keay says there are plenty of opportunities with new technologies. Picture: Mark Calleja/AAP

The Government's innovation review will commence with a roundtable of sector leaders tomorrow.

The Minister said the $650 million investment in the Advance Queensland program was already helping create new jobs for the future, with 12,500 since 2015.

Queensland was on track to become a world leader in emerging tech industries including artificial intelligence, robotics and autonomous vehicles, Ms Jones said.

QUT's Australian Centre for Robotic Vision, headed by Dr Sue Keay, recently released a road map for development of the industry.

"Robotic technologies are at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) where the physical and digital worlds converge," it said.

"They are also key to Australia attaining productivity growth of 2.5 per cent year, the level we need to maintain our living standards."

The road map said Australia can become a testbed for robotics technology by leading the world in ethical, legal and standards frameworks.

"We can build national capability in robotics by forming research and technology clusters to develop existing talents and encourage new talent, technology and businesses," it said.

"We must develop an entrepreneurial culture to set moon shot goals and challenges and encourage VC (venture capital) investment in the robotics industry."