Irish quantum tech experts are coming together on a project that aims to future-proof communications infrastructure across Europe.

Research from universities and institutes around the country will pool their expertise to examine how infrastructure and the transmission of data in Ireland can be secured using quantum technology.

It is particularly timely given the spate of cyberattacks that have impacted Irish organisations in recent years, including the ransomware attack on the HSE last year.

The €10m IrelandQCI project is part of an EU-wide quantum communications infrastructure programme called EuroQCI, and is being funded by the Irish Government and the EU.

The 30-month-long project will be led by the Waterford-based Walton Institute, which is a part of South East Technological University.

Walton Institute director Dr Deirdre Kilbane hailed the project as “the first steps towards building the quantum internet in Ireland”.

“It’s an exciting time for Waterford and the south-east region to be playing such a key role in ensuring the security of data and communications in Ireland,” she added.

Other partners include researchers at Trinity College Dublin and the Tyndall Institute at University College Cork, with support from University College Dublin and Maynooth University.

All are member institutions of Connect, the Science Foundation Ireland research centre for future networks and communications.

Other participants in IrelandQCI include the Irish Centre for High-End Computing as well as HEAnet and ESB Telecoms.

Experts will collaborate on integrating secure quantum devices and systems into our conventional communication infrastructures.

They will do this by enhancing ESB Telecoms’ optical fibre network with an additional layer of security – all based on quantum physics principles such as quantum key distribution (QKD).

QKD is a secure communication method for exchanging encryption keys known between shared parties alone. The communication method uses properties of quantum physics to exchange cryptographic keys in such a way that is provable and guarantees security.

The IrelandQCI team will establish QKD infrastructure along a major network backbone from Dublin to Cork via Waterford using a quantum channel integrated with existing classical fibre systems.

The team will also trial 16 quantum security technology advanced use cases with stakeholders across public, industry and academic sectors.

The project will see experts engage with these stakeholders to educate them on the potential of quantum tech. This engagement will be in the form of lectures, training, workshops and visits to quantum technology laboratories.

The IrelandQCI team is also hoping to further build up the quantum tech ecosystem in the country.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications Ossian Smyth, TD, said: “We are lucky to have such a high quality and committed community of experts in Ireland in the quantum field.

“Developing Ireland’s first quantum communications infrastructure network will bring quantum technologies a step closer, and will help Irish businesses, public agencies and the general public to start building the skills needed to benefit from the quantum internet,” he added.

Blathnaid O’Dea

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