Queensland’s economy could see billions more with robotics and automation

In the coming decade, the new robot economy could transform Queensland industry, productivity and quality of life in ways not before imagined, a new report indicates.

The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) partnered with the Australian Centre for Robotic Vision to commission an independent report from Synergies Economic Consulting.

The Robotics and Automation Advantage for Queensland report and summary document show how Queensland can harness the benefits of and adapt its workforce to the new robot economy.

The report stated that in the best-case scenario, Queensland stands to reap the benefits of more than 1.1 million new jobs, equating to an $117.5 billion boost to Gross State Product (GSP).

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This is dependent on a high striker approach of ‘managed’ rapid uptake (2 per cent p/a growth of GSP attributable to robotics and automation), backed by the full weight of government and private sector support.

The faster Queensland embraces robotics and automation, the greater the benefits to GSP and net job creation, the report explained.

Importantly, the more rapid the growth, the greater income effects and capacity for new technology to alter rather than replace jobs.

What’s more, in Queensland, where small-to-medium-sized enterprises comprise 97.4 per cent of the economy, another positive knock-on effect of rapid growth is falling cost and wider affordability of robotics and automated systems

Queensland’s economy is strongly diversified, and, in common with many advanced economies, a shift to service industries — ripe to harvest the benefits of a new robot economy — has been underway for many years.

While mining and agriculture continue to be the headline in any analysis of the state’s economy, others are increasingly vying for the top spot.

Between 1999 and 2017 Queensland’s GSP grew from $93,144 million to $298,254 million.

In the short term, Queensland’s comparative advantage in the introduction of automation and robotics lies in mining, agriculture, as well as food technology, hospitality, and tourism related activities.

In the medium to longer term, opportunities exist in small to medium enterprises using light robotics in manufacturing and tapping into the Asian value chain.

The cost of not automating adds up to at least $37.4 Billion in lost GSP, and 492,950 jobs over the next 10 years, the report stated.

Globally, Queensland is under-developed in terms of automation and robotics.

This is due to the state’s lack of heavy manufacturing, such as ship and car building – industries among the first to embrace automation.

Queensland, however, is recognised as a global leader in robotics research and development and, in 2017, was placed second nationally as home to the most tech start-ups.

In 2014, the Australian government announced the creation of the world-first Australian Centre for Robotic Vision, headquartered in Brisbane at QUT.

The Centre stakes its claim as the largest expert research body of its kind on the planet, comprising more than 200 researchers from across Australia and the world.

In June 2018, it released Australia’s first Robotics Roadmap, showing how the fourth industrial revolution, characterised by automation and increased use of robots, will not replace but create jobs, with potential to boost Australia’s productivity by $2.2 trillion over the next 15 years.