Queensland is betting on a future in Artificial Intelligence

Written by Dr. Natalie Rens, Artificial Intelligence Specialist, Office of the Queensland Chief Entrepreneur



When I came back from a trip to Silicon Valley just under two years ago, there was little visible in the way of artificial intelligence (AI) in Queensland. The topic was hitting media headlines (mostly for the wrong reasons) but it seemed that few people here were talking about it, let alone doing it. In an attempt to find fellow AI enthusiasts, I started a meetup Brisbane.AI, initially alongside Dr Juxi Leitner. Never could I have predicted what that decision would lead to.


What I discovered was that we have a strong swell of enthusiasm and talent here in Brisbane. Just eighteen months after our first event, Brisbane.AI has grown to over 2,000 members and our events are extending to cater to increasing thirst for technical skill.


Based on this community effort, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to develop further AI strategy for Queensland with the Office of the Queensland Chief Entrepreneur. Ten months of engaging with our local AI scene and looking into successful stories elsewhere gave me the confidence that what we have in Queensland could be nurtured into something truly world-class.


I am thrilled to see that our state government believes this too, announcing a strong $50 million commitment to AI in the recent budget release. Even more exciting, our very own Queensland AI centre is poised to launch in 2019. Housed in the state-funded Precinct, this will serve as a central hub for AI innovation that supports startups, industry, and academia in developing AI capability.


The message sent is clear: Queensland is betting on a future in AI.


So, why are we committed to AI and, importantly, what is next for Queensland?


The answer to the first is that AI is an incredibly powerful tool that is already driving major advancements worldwide. It is not magic but, built on top of a data-driven approach, it can be used to essentially augment the capability of humans within the workforce. Our local startups are working on problems such as medical diagnosis to help clinicians treat patients and crop imaging to help farmers increase yield. This is only the start of what is to come as new algorithms are developed and technologies like autonomous vehicles and IoT systems reach maturity.


In order to grow our capability, Queensland’s organisations will need to embrace AI more confidently. It is an emerging technology, which comes with inherent risk, but it is clear that those who commit to a data-driven AI strategy will profit in the years to come. This may mean investing in upskilling staff but, ultimately, it will be worth it. In this matter, our local startups are exemplary in their audacity to tackle some of the biggest problems out there, with founders learning to build AI in order to develop solutions they see making a global impact.


For me, I am convinced we have what it takes here not only to go global but to go interplanetary. My own, Brisbane-based, startup Spaceport AI is focused on developing AI technologies to enable life in space, starting with Mars. Our first projects will all be in collaboration with local partners that can help deliver the elements we need to work our way towards space-ready technologies.  


I am genuinely excited to see what we all achieve next as Queensland steps up the game in AI. To hear more from me and others working to build AI capability in Queensland, join me at the AI Summit QLD on November 15, 2018.

You can also get in touch with me on natalie.rens@oqce.qld.gov.au.