The year 2020 will not be forgotten easily. We all had to come to grips with Covid-19: a strand of around 30 kb of classical information able to massively replicate itself within human cells. For scientists, the safety measures of being deprived of freely working in a laboratory, or of not sharing blackboard discussions, raised the art of making good science to a higher level. The challenge may be better phrased by Goethe: “It is in self-limitation that a master first shows himself”.
I can only thank Artur Ekert, the founding Director of CQT, for his timely handover. More seriously, I have always admired his work and vision. Leading CQT is just an amazing challenge, crowded with lessons that I’ll have to learn.
One lesson we all know: science is truly unstoppable. The year of the pandemic has been a time of dramatic actions in quantum research. We went through a very difficult year, full of constraints and isolation, while interest for quantum technologies percolated in the minds of decision makers. Keep in mind the national programmes presented in e.g. Germany, France, Israel, or such news as IonQ going public. Quantum is on the rise.
Moreover, Singapore launched the second phase of the Quantum Engineering Programme, with new funding of $96.6 million, which is now developing fast under the direction of our colleague Alexander Ling. The Singapore government also announced its next five-year plan for research, innovation and enterprise, to see a $25 billion investment. CQT anticipates more funding to carry out research on quantum sensing, quantum communication and quantum computation and simulation. The near future for our research is definitely exciting.
New quantum challenges and increasing funding require large coordination efforts. It is my strong opinion that it is time to collaborate, not to compete. I believe Singapore can stay relevant on the world stage by setting up national quantum facilities, working hard at educating talent, and coordinating basic and applied research. CQT can take the lead on such responsibilities. There are also new and tantalising opportunities for innovation, venture building and internationalisation. And we should never forget outreach: science is part of our culture. It is our duty at CQT to reach and interact with all parts of society.
Let us dream a little bit of the future. A nascent quantum ecosystem in Singapore will be made of universities and institutes that collaborate to create top level research, as well as companies that explore quantum technologies and startups that open deep tech markets and large bets. It is the combination of research, business and investors that can forge the future economy of Singapore.
All around the planet, corporations and universities are competing for quantum talent. The surprise for many is that a student cannot learn quantum physics at the same speed they develop coding skills in Python. Understanding quantum laws requires time, depth, reflection; those qualities are hard to find in our times, and that makes CQT even more valuable.
José Ignacio Latorre
This view was first published in the CQT 2020 Annual Report. Read our annual reports here.
José Ignacio Latorre was appointed Director of the Centre for Quantum Technologies in July 2020. He is also Professor and Provost’s Chair in the National University of Singapore's Department of Physics. A leading figure in particle physics and quantum information, José Ignacio joined CQT, NUS from the University of Barcelona. He has been heading a research group at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center to build the first quantum processor in Spain. José Ignacio is also the founder of the Centro de Ciencias de Benasque Pedro Pascual, a Spanish scientific facility that is well known in the quantum information community for hosting workshops and conferences.