Singapore ups investment in quantum computing to stay ahead of security threats

Two new programmes will look to bolster skillsets in quantum computing and develop quantum devices, as Singapore stresses the need to "stay ahead of malicious actors" and ensure encryption technology remains robust.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

Singapore is aiming to boost its capabilities in quantum computing with new initiatives to develop relevant skillsets and quantum devices. It stresses the need to do so to ensure encryption technologies remain robust and able to withstand "brute force" attacks. 

The Singapore government on Tuesday announced plans to set aside SG$23.5 million (17.09 million) to support three national platforms, parked under its Quantum Engineering Programme (QEP), for up to 3.5 years. The scheme is part of the country's Research, Innovation, and Enterprise 2020 (RIE2020) plan. 

Two of these platforms were unveiled today, including the National Quantum Computing Hub, which would pull together expertise and resources from the Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT), local universities, and research institutions to beef up relevant skillsets. 

Teams from CQT, National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, A*STAR's Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC), and National Supercomputing Centre (NSCC) would look to build international collaborations and train new talent to plug a skills shortage in the emerging industry.

Researchers at CQT and IHPC also would develop quantum computing hardware and middleware, including potential applications in various sectors such as finance, supply chain, and chemistry. NSCC would provide the supercomputing power needed to develop and train algorithms to be used on quantum computers.

A second programme, National Quantum Fabless Foundry, was introduced to support micro and nano-fabrication of quantum devices across cleanrooms operated by industry partners. Hosted at A*STAR's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering, the platform would facilitate the development of products in quantum computations, communication, and sensing. 

Together, both initiatives would beef up local talent and enable researchers to explore how quantum computing could support various industries as well as develop quantum devices. 

The Quantum Engineering Programme also encompassed a quantum-safe network touted to showcase "crypto-agile connectivity" and support trials with both public and private organisations. Announced earlier in February, the project aimed to enhance network security for critical infrastructures and had roped in 15 partners at launch, including ST Telemedia Global Data Centres, Cyber Security Agency, and Amazon Web Services. 

In his speech unveiling the new initiatives, Singapore's Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat said the country needed to remain vigilant amidst intensifying threats. 

Likening cyber threats to a "cat and mouse game", Heng said efforts were made to stay ahead of malicious actors who continuously looked to exploit new gaps. With the cyber landscape fast evolving, he said quantum technology was a potential "game changer". 

"Strong encryption is key to the security of digital networks. The current encryption standard, AES 256, has held up, as few have the computing power to use brute force to break the encryption. But this could change with quantum computing," he cautioned. "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."

This underscored the importance of quantum technology research, the minister said. "Our investment in quantum computing and quantum engineering is part of our approach of trying to anticipate the future and proactively shaping the future that we want."

With increasing digitalisation came greater cyber risks, he said, noting that Singapore must stay invested to stay further ahead of potential threats. 

He added that the fabless foundry would tap the country's manufacturing capabilities to develop quantum devices, alongside industry partners, that solved "real-world challenges".


Editorial standards