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Speech by Professor Subra Suresh on Quantum Science and Engineering Centre launch

Welcome Address by

Professor Subra Suresh

President & Distinguished University Professor

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Launch of Quantum Science and Engineering Centre 

Nanyang Auditorium, Nanyang Technological University

Tuesday, 7 December 2021, 1.00pm


Minister for Education, Mr Chan Chun Sing
Colleagues, Faculty, Staff, Students
Ladies and Gentlemen

A very good afternoon to all of you. I am delighted to welcome you to the launch of the Quantum Science and Engineering Centre (QSec).

Over the last thirty years, there have been steady advances in the fields of quantum science that will radically change computing. These developments will potentially enable tasks and calculations that are impossible for classical computers.

A quantum computer is not just a device for cracking codes. It has significant potential in the world of computation: from solving difficult problems in chemistry and fertilisers, to better optimisation in artificial intelligence and machine learning, and even to enable pharmaceutical drug design. 

Singapore aims to be a leader in this important research landscape. Since 2018, the National Research Foundation has invested more than $120 million in the Quantum Engineering Programme to translate leading edge science and technologies into engineering devices and capabilities that meet industry and societal needs.

Today, I am pleased to announce that NTU will play an important role in the development of Singapore’s quantum engineering efforts with the official launch of the Quantum Science and Engineering Centre (QSec). QSec, supported by the Ministry of Education, will spearhead translational research excellence in quantum technologies and develop innovations with a high Technology Readiness Level.

The big challenge for researchers is translating advances in the field into real-world solutions. The quantum laws of physics are vastly different from what we are familiar with at the continuum, macroscopic or even microscopic scales because they deal with particles at the atomic level. There is still a lot of research work to be done before these technologies become commercially feasible, along with addressing challenges such as scalability.

QSec aims to develop chip-based quantum communication and computing technologies to close these gaps by building engineering capabilities to improve commercialisation potential. 

The Centre’s focus on developing these chips will play a vital role in Singapore’s concerted effort to promote and advance the field. QSec will collaborate with the Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT), a Research Centre of Excellence started in 2007.

A key focus area of the Centre will be photonic chips, or chips that exploit the quantum properties of light particles, instead of the electrical currents that the conventional chips in our computers and smartphones use. Developing these chips and seeking ways to fabricate them at scale will open the doors for the technology to be used in devices, such as computers or sensors.           

Researchers at the Centre have already done remarkable work on quantum communication security by harnessing integrated photonic technology. They have developed a high-speed chip with integrated quantum key distribution (QKD) technology to further advance highly secure, encrypted communication.          

The team has also developed Singapore’s first quantum computer chip, aptly named “Merlion”, which is also a fabricated semiconductor photonic chip. This chip’s performance is measured in qubits, the quantum version of the bits we are familiar with in our classical computers.   

“Merlion” has advanced development from an 8-qubit chip to a 16-qubit processor chip, and the team aims to double the number of qubits of this chip every 6 months. The NTU team’s research in this area has also been published in major international journals.

As NTU aims to be a key enabler to support Singapore’s ambitions to grow the quantum industry here, QSec’s work will also be an important contributor to the University’s NTU 2025 goals as part of our strategic plan to strengthen deep disciplinary discoveries and interdisciplinary collaborations in high impact research, and to translate knowledge into enterprise that benefits industry and society.

In addition, QSec will train a pipeline of talent with technical and leadership skills tailored to future technology development and establish an international platform to collaborate with overseas partners. 

QSec researchers will also offer outreach activities to students in secondary schools to generate interest in this exciting new field and to inspire the next generation of aspiring quantum scientists.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Minister Chan Chun Sing for taking the time to be here today to participate in this ceremony.

I wish the Centre directors, Professor Liu Ai Qun and Associate Professor Kwek Leong Chuan, and all QSec researchers and students all the very best. 

Thank you.