Herefordshire will be home to the UK’s leading centre of excellence in cyber security – a £9m state-of-the-art hub supporting innovation and industry in the sector.
That was the ambitious vision laid out at the launch of the new Cyber Quarter – Midlands Centre for Cyber Security recently as it unveiled a package of tailored security testing, training, R&D and sector expertise to businesses and investors at 3CDSE in Malvern.
Construction of the centre is under way at Hereford’s Skylon Park, the UK’s only Enterprise Zone with a dedicated defence and security sector focus.
It is a joint venture between the University of Wolverhampton and Herefordshire Council and part-funded by the Government’s Local Growth Fund, via the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
Supported by the university’s Wolverhampton Cyber Research Institute (WCRI), the centre will also be home to 16 cyber SMEs and well as offering cyber R&D, product testing and certification, CPD and short courses and cyber conferences attracting experts from across the globe.
Delegates at 3CDSE heard that specialist support and training would be on offer from centre experts even before the 2,000 sq ft building is opened, via the university’s Business Solutions Centre on Skylon Park.
Launching the centre, WCRI Director and cyber security Professor Prashant Pillai, said: “This is a trail-blazing project, offering a single hub for cyber security needs for both small and large businesses.
“From security assessments of services and processes, to help becoming compliant with industry standards, to needing full on systems tests for vulnerabilities in the face of hacking attacks, the centre will provide a wide spectrum of support to businesses.
“This is vital at a time when cyber attacks have risen to fifth in the ranking of global risks to doing business, with 43% of cyber crimes targeted at smaller enterprises and 60 per cent of those effectively close their doors within six months of an attack.”
Digital Minister Margot James said: “Our cyber security sector is growing rapidly, with some of the best young businesses in the country coming up with innovative solutions to help protect the nation in the years ahead. Through our National Cyber Security Strategy we’re investing £1.9 billion over five years, and the new Cyber Quarter as part of the Midlands Engine will play a vital role in helping UK businesses to be cyber secure and resilient.”
Herefordshire, and the wider Marches region, has this year been recognised as being part of the UK’s largest cluster of cyber security activity outside London in a Science and Innovation Audit published by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Andrew Manning Cox, chairman of the Hereford Enterprise Zone, said the extensive research and development activity and specialist cyber courses being launched would be a catalyst for further business investment at the Cyber Quarter.
“Whether it’s the hacking of websites, theft of confidential data, the spread of fake news by foreign powers to influence elections, or the NHS having its systems compromised, it’s clear that the security of our digital infrastructure has never been under greater threat. The expertise and specialist focus of the centre will help address these issues, and be part of a wider, growing campus of cyber sector companies based within the Cyber Quarter on Skylon Park.”
Councillor Trish Marsh, cabinet member for environment, economy and skills at Herefordshire Council, said: “This is a tremendous opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses to gain a foothold in the fast-growing, specialist cyber security sector, within a centre of excellence. Herefordshire has an established, highly-regarded security industry, with the expertise and infrastructure to support their ambitions.”
Group picture caption from left to right: Nick Webster, Economic Development Manager (Herefordshire Council), Andrew Manning Cox, Chair (Hereford Enterprise Zone), Professor Amar Aggoun, Head of School of Mathematics and Computer Science (University of Wolverhampton), Professor Prashant Pillai, Director (Wolverhampton Cyber Research Institute) and Mark Pearce, Managing Director (Hereford Enterprize Zone).