$15M Singapore-London partnership to help stem APAC’s growing healthcare cybersecurity woes

A S$20 million grant from the National Research Foundation, Singapore (NRF) has been awarded to Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and Imperial College London to develop ways to better protect health data and wearable devices.

Imperial’s newly opened overseas research centre, Imperial Global: Singapore, is collaborating with NTU Singapore researchers on the IN-CYPHER programme “to tackle existing security challenges and to protect emerging sensing technologies – and their data – from being compromised,” a press statement read. It ultimately aims to position Singapore as a “global leader in health cybersecurity and AI for healthcare.”

“Data and AI offer great potential to improve healthcare around the world, but the rapid adoption of technology brings risks and challenges. As we incorporate more data and technology to reach the era of truly personalised healthcare, we increase both the ‘attack surface’ for devices, and the risk of leakage of sensitive data,” said Imperial professor Anil Anthony Bharath, who is co-leading the IN-CYPHER programme with professor Liu Yang of NTU Singapore.

The four-year grant will support research which is believed to have applications in a broad range of medical devices, including continuous glucose monitors, smart electronic skin patches, and activity monitors. 


More and more medical devices are getting hooked up to hospital and home networks and the Internet. In Singapore’s public health facilities, for example, about 15% or over 16,000 medical devices have Internet connectivity. While this growing connectivity does enable better patient monitoring within and beyond the hospital, it also raises cybersecurity risks, compromising patients’ personal and medical data and disrupting treatment protocols and hospital operations. 

To raise the cybersecurity levels of medical devices available in the country, the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore last year released the Cybersecurity Labelling Scheme for Medical Devices. Currently voluntary, the scheme incentivises manufacturers to adopt a security-by-design approach in creating their products. It also helps healthcare providers and consumers make informed purchasing decisions by being able to identify products according to their cybersecurity provisions. 

Interestingly, a recent report by Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association and L.E.K. Consulting that looked into the cybersecurity landscape across Asia-Pacific, suggested having a customised assessment of medical devices for remote care based on their risk level instead of a blanket assessment. This is because devices connected to a network are at higher risk of data leakage compared to unconnected devices. “Hence, for medical devices with lower risk levels, less stringent assessment processes can be applied to ensure sufficient innovation and competition in the remote care medical device market,” the report said. 

The report also noted that existing cybersecurity frameworks across the region are not suited for remote care with data transfer policies still shaky. It raised the urgent need to have a “targeted approach” in tailoring these cybersecurity frameworks to support remote care management to better mitigate risks of cyber incidences and protect patient data.

As healthcare systems further expose themselves to cybersecurity threats with their increasing integration and reliance on medical devices, the market for cybersecurity in medical devices is expected to become more lucrative, projected to be worth $1.1 billion by 2027, growing at a 12% CAGR from 2022.

Meanwhile, IN-CYPHER is the first research programme of Imperial Global: Singapore, which aims to help scientists “rapidly scale” new scientific breakthroughs and technology for further commercialisation across Southeast Asia. 

The centre, located at the NRF Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise, builds on Imperial and NTU Singapore’s long-standing partnership: they established the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine in 2010 and the virtual NTU-Imperial Health, Sustainability, and Technology Hub in 2022. 

Imperial’s academic ties also extend beyond NTU Singapore; it has also collaborated with Singapore’s National Centre for Infectious Diseases on pandemic preparedness and response.

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