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Singapore doubles down on quantum technology

The city-state is shoring up its quantum talent and quantum device manufacturing capabilities in a bid to advance its knowhow in the emerging technology

Singapore is doubling down on quantum technology with two new programmes aimed at growing quantum-related talent and manufacturing capabilities in the city-state.

The first programme, the National Quantum Computing Hub, will pool expertise from Singapore’s Centre for Quantum Technology, and across other institutions in Singapore. The initiative is expected to strengthen talent development and provide better access to quantum technology.

Building on Singapore’s strengths in advanced manufacturing, the National Quantum Fabless Foundry programme will also work with partners to support micro and nanofabrication of quantum devices. The goal of the programme is to develop more quantum devices to solve real-world challenges.

Speaking at the Asia Tech x Singapore conference today, Singapore’s deputy prime minister Heng Swee Keat said the new initiatives, which come under the auspices of the Quantum Engineering Programme, are part of broader efforts to invest in quantum technology amid growing cyber threats.

Heng said that while Singapore is setting broader social standards for cyber security, urging companies to put in place robust measures for handling data, and raising cyber awareness among its people, cyber threats, like most criminal activities, are ultimately a “cat and mouse” game. 

“We try to stay one step ahead of malicious actors, but these actors seek to exploit new gaps,” he said. “The cyber landscape is also fast evolving, with quantum technology a potential game changer.”

Noting that strong encryption is key to the security of digital networks and that the current encryption standard – Advanced Encryption Standard 256 – has held up as few have the computing power to use brute force to break the encryption, this could change with quantum computing. “For some cryptographic functions, the fastest quantum computer is more than 150 million times faster than the fastest supercomputer. Quantum computers can solve in minutes a problem which takes a supercomputer 10,000 years,” he said.

Read more about quantum technology in APAC

Quantum technology is a key research area under Singapore’s research and development plans. In 2007, it established the Centre for Quantum Technology with support from the National Research Foundation and the Ministry of Education. 

In 2018, the S$25m Quantum Engineering Programme was established to translate quantum science and technologies into engineering devices and capabilities that meet industry needs. 

The programme is aimed at building a competitive quantum engineering research community in Singapore, with experience to translate quantum technologies into real-world applications in areas such as cyber security, global navigation systems, sensing technologies and diagnostic imaging.

Some companies in Singapore’s private sector are also dipping their toes into quantum technology. In 2019, researchers from local telco Singtel and the National University of Singapore succeeded in coordinating the paths of photons across a fibre network to drive wider adoption of quantum key distribution (QKD).

QKD is a protocol that transmits light particles, or photons, over a network, so that two communicating parties can agree on and generate an encryption key to establish a secure communication channel.

Following their success, the researchers have started working on actual use cases where quantum-resistant secure communication is needed to provide long-term security in government, banking and military applications.

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