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UCD launches quantum research centre to untangle our greatest challenges

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Centre director Dr Andrew Mitchell says quantum computing can tackle the issues that are too complex for classical computers.

University College Dublin (UCD) will this week launch a new quantum research centre to help solve the unsolvable.

The Centre for Quantum Engineering, Science & Technology, or C-QuEST, seeks to accelerate the development of quantum research in Ireland and use this technology to address major global challenges.

Proponents of quantum computing see these systems improving weather forecasts, performing analysis on financial markets at super-speed, discovering more effective drugs and revealing energy-saving solutions that could mitigate the climate crisis.

Tackling these challenges at C-QuEST will be a staff of 24 academics from across the UCD Schools of Physics, Engineering, Computer Science, and Maths & Statistics.

Dr Andrew Mitchell from the UCD School of Physics will lead C-QuEST as director.

“Quantum computing will enable us to solve problems that are too complex for classical computers to deal with,” said Mitchell. “This will revolutionise a huge spectrum of industries from medicine and agriculture to finance and cybersecurity.”

‘Quantum tech is becoming a national priority area’
– DR ANDREW MITCHELL

C-QuEST sets out to understand, develop and commercialise new quantum technologies.

Part of its remit will be to collaborate with industry partners and, pre-launch, the centre has already undertaken some industry research projects.

“The big tech companies are in an R&D race, with IBM, Intel, Google and Microsoft all investing heavily in the quantum sector,” said Mitchell.

“UCD researchers have netted millions of euros in quantum research funding in recent years, a sign that quantum tech is becoming a national priority area.”

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Mitchell said there has been an “explosion” in quantum research and technology already in Ireland and internationally. The EU has its own initiative, Quantum Flagship, investing €1bn to develop a competitive quantum industry in Europe.

“And aside from research, we are hearing more and more from quantum tech employers that they need a ‘quantum-literate’ workforce,” Mitchell added.

‘We are excited to l help position Ireland at the forefront of the quantum tech revolution’
– DR ANDREW MITCHELL

C-QuEST, will officially be launched on Thursday, 29 July.

The virtual event will outline the aims and ambitions of the research centre with appearances from the some of the key people involved, including international stakeholders.

C-QuEST ‘champions’ will feature in the presentations, including theoretical physicist Dr Steve Campbell and Prof Elena Blokhina, who chairs the Chair of the IEEE technical committee on non-linear circuits and systems.

Jason Lynch, COO of UCD spin-out Equal1 will also participate in the event, offering some industry perspective. Equal1 has secured multimillion-dollar funding for its quest to build affordable quantum computers for everyone. The company recently reached a major milestone for quantum computing through research backed by Atlantic Bridge, Enterprise Ireland and 808 Ventures.

Prof Mauro Paternostro from Queen’s University Belfast will also be speaking at the event to give an all-island perspective.

“We are excited to launch C-QuEST now to help position Ireland at the forefront of the quantum tech revolution,” said Mitchell.

In a recent interview with Siliconrepublic.com, Dr Ilana Wisby, CEO and co-founder of Oxford Quantum Circuits, explained why quantum computing could be essential in solving “some of the world’s most intractable problems”.

“As with any paradigm shift, it is impossible to predict its exact ramifications. What we do know is that we cannot solve problems with the same computers we used when we created them,” said Wisby.

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Irish payroll tech company BrightPay merges with UK’s Relate

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The two companies will get funding from investor Hg to hire more employees and innovate new technologies across Ireland and the UK.

Irish payroll management tech company BrightPay has announced a merger with London-based accounting software company Relate Software in a bid to integrate services for SMEs across the two islands.

Based in Co Meath, BrightPay has been operating in Ireland for more than 25 years and employs more than 70 people in the country. It provides payroll software services to more than 330,000 employers in Ireland and the UK.

Upon merging, BrightPay CEO Paul Byrne and Relate co-founder and CEO Ray Rogers will remain investors and become co-CEOs of the new entity. The other co-founders of each company will also continue to invest in the new business and develop products.

Byrne said that Relate’s track record in the sector will help them become the leading service for many businesses and accountancy firms.

Private equity investor Hg, which focuses on software and service businesses in Europe and North America, will become the majority investor in the combined business. “Their deep sector knowledge has proven invaluable to us and will be instrumental in fuelling the further growth of BrightPay/Relate,” Byrne added.

New hires and technologies

The merger will benefit from the combination of BrightPay’s expertise in payroll software with Relate’s experience in accountancy management tech. Together with Hg, the new business will invest in new technologies such as cloud and automation to improve their services.

Rogers, founder and CEO of Relate, said: “Combining products from both businesses will provide a compelling offering for our customers, with the scope and backing for further innovation and development.

“I’m looking forward to working with Paul and am also excited to welcome Hg, a leading software investor with a track record of supporting growth in Irish software businesses.”

While details of the transactions have not been disclosed, the combined business will have more than 190 employees with plans to hire more people across Ireland and the UK.

“Both BrightPay and Relate are very highly regarded businesses and champions in their field,” said Jonathan Boyes, Hector Guinness and Thomas Martin of Hg in a joint statement. “The two companies bring together core operational strengths whilst also unlocking a high-quality, complementary suite of products to a newly combined customer base.”

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New UK broadband rules will make it easier to switch supplier | Broadband

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The UK media regulator, Ofcom, has introduced a new service to make it easier for customers to switch broadband supplier to get a better deal.

Ofcom hopes the new process, One Touch Switch, will encourage people to seek out better deals after research found that more than two-fifths of people were put off switching broadband suppliers because of the hassle.

People can already switch between providers that use Openreach’s broadband network – such as BT, Sky and TalkTalk – through a process requiring a customer to only contact their new supplier.

However, until now customers looking to change networks or technologies – such as between Virgin Media’s network and a provider on Openreach or other smaller networks such as Hyperoptic or CityFibre – had to deal with both the new and old supplier simultaneously.

Ofcom research found that a quarter of customers making such a switch faced attempts by their provider to stop them. The One Touch Switch process aims to eliminate these issues, including customers having to sort out the end and start dates of their old and new services.

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“Household finances are strained at the moment, so switching broadband provider could help keep your bills down,” said Lindsey Fussell, the network and communications group director at Ofcom. “We’re making it as easy as possible for you to break up with your broadband provider and take advantage of the deals on offer.”

Ofcom said the new rules will also mean that suppliers will have to compensate customers if they are left without internet for more than one working day during a switch. All suppliers must introduce Ofcom’s new simplified switching process by April 2023.

The regulator has introduced a range of measures in recent years to make sure customers have access to the best deals. These include cracking down on the so-called “loyalty penalty” by which customers who stick with their broadband, mobile or pay-TV supplier are not offered the same discount deals as new customers.

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India, Japan flex cyber-defence muscles as China seethes • The Register

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India and Japan have each flexed their cyber-defence muscles in ways that China can’t miss.

Japan’s flex was the Monday launch of a national cyber-security policy that for the first time names China, Russia, and North Korea as sources of heightened threat. The policy also calls for Japan’s Self Defence Force to increase its digital capabilities.

The new plan was released as expected under Japan’s policy of refreshing its defensive plans every three years. The theme for the policy is “Cybersecurity for all” and chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said its aim is to ensure that no part of Japanese society goes without the protections it needs.

Kato said the plan was also developed because Japan’s government “recognised a threat” and therefore a need to strengthen its online defences. The policy documents list many recent infosec incidents – such as the attack on SolarWinds and Microsoft’s Exchange flaw – as the sort of thing Japan needs to counter.

India’s flex came from vice-president M. Venkaiah Naidu, who on Monday visited a military museum and remarked that India’s security forces should “prepare themselves to dominate not only in a conventional war but also establish their superiority in the new and emerging areas of conflict such as information and cyber warfare along with the increasing use of robotics and drones in the battlefield”.

“The nation is assured that any misadventure by an adversary will be given a befitting reply by the Indian Army,” Naidu said.

While the position of vice-president is largely ceremonial – the officeholder is backup to the head of state, but actual power resides with Parliament – Naidu’s words have weight. Doubly so as he stated India faces “both symmetric and asymmetric threats from outside and within” and then asserted India’s sovereignty over Jammu & Kashmir and argued that previous arrangements that gave the territory autonomy were temporary.

Mentioning Jammu & Kashmir is significant, as the disputed India/China border is in the territory. The territory is also the subject of a dispute with Pakistan.

Kashmiri separatists, which India labels Pakistan-supported terrorists, and China, will all have noticed the veep urging India to arm itself in the kinetic and digital realms.

China has certainly noticed last week’s meeting of “The Quad” – the grouping of Australia, the USA, Japan, and India – and its announcement of plans to develop infosec standards it hopes the world will follow.

China’s foreign ministry has labelled The Quad a “closed and exclusive clique” informed by “outdated Cold War zero-sum mentality and ideological bias”.

Spokesperson Hua Chunying addressed the issue at a press conference in response to a question from Russian news agency TASS. “For some time, these countries have been keen on insinuating China with the so-called ‘rules-based order’, playing up and inciting the so-called ‘China threat’ theory, and driving a wedge between regional countries and China.”

Te actions of Japan and India actions suggest the wedge is working. ®

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