This article was posted on the Welsh Government Digital and Data Blog. All information relevant at the time of publication.
In this blog I reflect on how the Welsh Government’s investment in a Wales Cyber Innovation Hub (CIH), matched with funding from the Cardiff Capital Region Deal, responds to the priority areas identified in the Cyber Action Plan. The investment will help galvanise and orchestrate existing pockets of cybersecurity excellence in Wales, with a key focus on growth and outcomes thereby creating an attractive proposition for businesses and investors across the World.
CIH is already growing our cyber ecosystem
With funding from Welsh Government and the Cardiff Capital Region Deal, CIH aims to create 25 new cyber start-ups – growing the ecosystem of Welsh-HQ’d cyber companies by 50%.
CIH will do this by joining the dots across Wales between large companies that need cyber problems solving, the innovative “ideas people” who can solve these problems, and those with the entrepreneurial know how to turn the solutions into viable start-ups.
Setting the challenge
Cyber stakeholders such as large Primes, Airbus, CGI and Thales; and public sector bodies such as Digital Health and Care Wales set these “challenges” – problems that they can’t solve with off-the-shelf solutions. These challenges could be, for example, securing future digital manufacturing plants, protecting energy production systems and connected vehicles, right down to smart homes and protecting consumers against attacks on digital devices in the home.
Responding to the challenge
Once CIH has identified the needs or “challenges” of the stakeholders, we then look to match these with the “ideas people” who have innovative ideas on how to solve them. These will be the “challenge responders”.
CIH is publishing the challenges and supporting challenge responders in developing new solutions – match-making people with innovative ideas on how to solve these challenges from Universities and beyond, with teams on the entrepreneurship programme at the Alacrity Foundation. That way, there is sufficient balance from a tech, cyber, commercial and business skillset to help create a viable company.
CIH is building viable start-ups
CIH provides supports the ideas people with cyber domain expertise, and entrepreneurs with commercial know-how, to work together and take the spark of a concept to a fully-fledged commercial venture within 12 months, that will grow and scale to solve local cyber problems, but also trade across the world.
At the end of April I was with Welsh Government colleagues in San Francisco at the World-renowned RSA conference – pitching to multi-billion dollar investors, and promoting Cyber in Wales, and CIH as part of this, to the World alongside other major European nations including Poland, Spain, Netherlands and Finland.
I was fortunate enough to be asked by the European Cyber Security Organisation (ECSO) to host a fireside chat, with major figures in cybersecurity including Juliette Wilcox – UK cybersecurity Ambassador; Lorena Boix Alonso – Director for Digital Trust & Cybersecurity at the European Commission; Gerhard Eschelbeck – CISO of Kodiak Robotics and Former CISO of Google; and Mikko Hypponen – CTO of WithSecure. There was a real passion and excitement about the potential markets available to European companies at this moment in time.
Throughout my time at RSA, including at the ECSO event, there was huge interest and enthusiasm for CIH’s unique match-making model, and real investor interest in knowing more about our new fledgling companies, even at a very early stage. Universities have often struggled to get innovative tech ideas into commercial ventures. I could literally see investors’ eyes light up when I pitched them this innovative means to wrap commercial teams around domain experts.
CIH is helping build a pipeline of cyber talent
CIH aims to create 1500 skilled workers to be able to take on cyber roles in Wales over the next 5 years, with a particular focus on upskilling and reskilling. We are creating a new, bespoke, upskilling programme of bitesize courses in hands-on cyber security, developed in line with industry needs. We are currently welcoming interest from local employers from any sector, in developing short courses tailored to employer needs. This could be anything from an introduction to security in the Cloud, to hands-on security of safety critical systems and critical national infrastructure.
The Welsh Government investment in CIH also bolsters its International Strategy to attract inward investment – aiming to attract more companies from around the World to relocate to Wales. The pipeline of skilled people we will help build, along with the ability for the new arrivals to Wales to work with CIH on new skills programmes that suit their needs for rapid upskilling of their workforce, will help make Wales an even more attractive proposition for relocation. We promoted this, alongside the Welsh Government’s International Team, at the RSA Conference in April.
CIH is helping to strengthen our cyber resilience and protecting our public services
We are also developing a range of cyber testbeds that are open to local companies to come and build “digital twins” – virtual versions of their digital infrastructure – in a safe and secure environment to test the resilience to cyber attacks under a range of scenarios (see more here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNIPkIU4IH4).
The work of the CIH will ultimately help to support organisations and public services to be more cyber resilient. The CIH upskilling programme provides an affordable way to ensure there is someone in every organisation with the necessary skills for understanding the risks to their digital infrastructure.
In their last blog the Welsh Government’s Cyber Leadership and Co-ordination team said “Cyber security is everyone’s responsibility, it’s not just for the tech savvy or the IT team. By building a culture where everyone has a fundamental knowledge, from citizens keeping safe online to staff having awareness of cyber security, we’ll strengthen our cyber resilience.” The Airbus Centre of Excellence in Human Centric Cyber Security at Cardiff University has been exploring how creating a cybersecurity culture across different people, processes and ways of working within an organisation are key to its success. Simply imposing technology is not the answer.
The core of the Cyber Innovation Hub is the concept of partnerships and across Wales there is excellent work happening. This includes the work of the Wales Cyber Resilience Centre which is promoting and supporting small businesses in becoming cyber resilient and propagating to the advice provided by the National Cyber Security Centre. We will continue to work across boundaries to join these dots to bring benefits to Wales.
If you are part of an organisation and motivated to set challenges for the Cyber Innovation Hub to turn into new solutions and commercial ventures, or are interested in working up a new short course for your teams – please drop CIH a message at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit https://cyberinnovationhub.wales / https://canolfanarloeseddseiber.cymru