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Message from CQT Director Artur Ekert:
reflections on 2015


Do you like assessments, writing progress reports, endless statistics on publications, impact factors and the like? Of course not. Nobody does, but, once you are given a licence to turn taxpayers' money into quantum technologies, it is only fair that you tell others what you did with that money. An International Review Panel convened in 2015 to assess CQT’s first seven years of operation reported that it was “impressed”. Needless to say, I knew we were doing well, but it is always nice to hear it from others, especially those who can offer impartial judgement and constructive criticism. The end result: CQT will continue to receive core funding through to 2022.

After hearing the good news, some of us went celebrating. I can only recall one CQTian, a beer-maker, quoting the Heineken Uncertainty Principle which says that "you can never be sure how many beers you had last night". Disclaimer: we are not sponsored by Heineken (some of us are partial to local Tiger) but if we were offered such sponsorship on good terms we would consider it.

Humour aside, while going through the review process I realised that the 2022 horizon, six years away, is almost another era in this rapidly moving field. So much progress has been made in the past six years (not necessarily in the directions we originally anticipated) that one can hardly speculate what will happen by then. Of course, I can stretch my imagination and suggest quantum random number generators in local casinos, island-wide quantum key distribution networks, quantum simulators which help to design new drugs, and super-precise atomic clocks leading to a super-accurate global positioning system. But the thing is, each year brings surprises.

Just this year our computers scientists surprised us, and the whole international community, by overturning a long-held belief that some forms of quantum computation can admit only quadratic speed-up. They showed that quartic speed-up is possible. This can open new directions for research. How could we possibly have foreseen this development a few years ago? We could not. And there are other surprises as well. For example, we were genuinely surprised when we learned that the explosion that destroyed the Antares rocket carrying our payload did not destroy CQT's Small Photon-Entangling Quantum System. So, dear industrial partners and colleagues out there in the commercial world, if you are after truly robust quantum technology, look no further, talk to us!

Talking about the commercial world, one of the major problems we will be facing in years to come is finding an optimal balance between basic and applied research. For some, basic research seems to be terribly inefficient and its practical results hard to predict. For others, myself included, it is the essence from which the practical applications of knowledge is drawn. Both sides have arguments. I believe CQT's strength is mostly in basic research, but we should certainly diversify our research and include more industry-related projects in our portfolio. I am glad to say that this is already happening.

Even though I cannot tell you what exactly we will be working on six years from now, I do know that we will be doing something interesting. I can say this with some degree of certainty because I see genuine quality and potential in our team. I must stress that the team means not just academic researchers but literally everyone at CQT. I recommend to you our most recent Annual Report to learn more about our people and the many things they have achieved in 2015.


Director's messages from other years: 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

Office: S15-03-07
Phone: +65 6516 5102
Email: CQTDir@nus.edu.sg

Artur Ekert is CQT's founding Director. He is also the Lee Kong Chian Centennial Professor at the National University of Singapore and the Professor of Quantum Physics at the Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford, UK. He is one of the pioneers of quantum cryptography. He has worked, communicated with and advised several companies and government agencies. His current research extends over most aspects of information processing in quantum-mechanical systems. He is a recipient of several awards, including the 1995 Maxwell Medal and Prize by the Institute of Physics and the 2007 Royal Society Hughes Medal. In his non-academic life he is an avid scuba diver.