Singapore aims to increase its capabilities in quantum computing with new initiatives to develop relevant skill sets and quantum devices. It highlights the need to do so to ensure that encryption technologies remain strong and capable of withstanding “brute force” attacks.
The Singapore government on Tuesday announced plans to allocate 23.5 million Singapore dollars ($17.09 million) to support three national platforms, stationed under its Quantum Engineering Program (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 Center for Quantum Computing, which would bring together the expertise and resources of the Center for Quantum Technologies (CQT), local universities and research institutions to bolster relevant skills.
Teams from CQT, National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, A*STAR Institute for High Performance Computing (IHPC), and National Supercomputing Center (NSCC) would seek to create international collaborations and train new talent to fill skills shortages in the emerging industry.
CQT and IHPC researchers would also 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 in quantum computers.
A second program, the National Quantum Fabless Foundry, was introduced to support micro- and nanofabrication of quantum devices in clean rooms operated by industry partners. Hosted at A*STAR’s Materials Engineering and Research Institute, the platform would facilitate product development in quantum computing, communication and sensing.
Together, both initiatives would bolster local talent and allow researchers to explore how quantum computing could support various industries and develop quantum devices.
The Quantum Engineering Program also encompassed a secure quantum network touted to showcase “crypto-agile connectivity” and support testing with public and private organizations. Announced in early Februarythe project aimed to improve network security for critical infrastructure and had 15 partners at launch, including ST Telemedia Global Data Centers, the Cyber Security Agency and Amazon Web Services.
In his speech introducing the new initiatives, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policy Heng Swee Keat said the country needed to remain vigilant amid intensifying threats.
Likening cyber threats to a “game of cat and mouse,” Heng said efforts were made to stay ahead of malicious actors who continually sought to exploit new loopholes. With the rapidly evolving cyber landscape, 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 stuck, as few have the computing power to use brute force to break encryption. But this could change with quantum computing,” he warned. . “For some cryptographic functions, the fastest quantum computer is more than 150 million times faster than the fastest supercomputer. Quantum computers can solve a problem in minutes that takes a supercomputer 10,000 years.”
This underlined the importance of research in quantum technology, the minister said. “Our investment in quantum computing and quantum engineering is part of our approach of trying to anticipate the future and proactively shape the future we want.”
With increased digitization has come greater cyber risks, he said, noting that Singapore must continue to invest to stay ahead of potential threats.
He added that the factory-free foundry would leverage the country’s manufacturing capabilities to develop quantum devices, together with industry partners, that would solve “real-world challenges.”