Wales has created the perfect conditions for one of the most technically advanced industries in the world to thrive. Thanks to the combined forces of industry, academia, government and defence, we’re right on the front line when it comes to defending computer systems from the bad guys.
We now have one of the biggest cyber security ecosystems in the UK, and one of the strongest in Europe. Our presence includes global tech giants like Airbus, Thales and General Dynamics, but also dynamic home-grown start-ups like Arcanum Cyber Security, whose 30-strong consultancy team is certified by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).
Arcanum’s managing director is Russ Wardle. During his 38-year military career, Wardle saw active service around the world. He was in charge of all Army activity in Wales, retiring with the rank of Brigadier. He’s seen plenty of real-life battlefields, but in his current role Wardle is fighting the malign forces that prowl the virtual battlefields of cyberspace.
“We work largely for government, and we have a particular presence in defence and aerospace,” says Wardle. “We also work for large organisations and critical national infrastructure, and we are increasingly working for large manufacturing companies who are concentrating on operational technology. Within Wales we’ve got a very vital cyber security sector.”
Arcanum play a highly active role in the Welsh cyber family. They’re part of the Cyber Wales group, whose clusters have more than 2,000 members, gathering to exchange information and share best practice. The group also works closely with the MoD’s cyber operations in the West Country, GCHQ in Cheltenham, and the NCSC.
Wardle says, “This is a fantastic place to set up and run a business. It’s good for its location; certainly if you want somewhere where your staff can easily get out into the countryside and unwind when they’re not at work, this is the place to be. In addition to which, there are plenty of highly skilled and motivated staff available to you, and Welsh Government and other funding opportunities to help you set up. We find that Welsh Government show great interest in the development of cyber security across the sector.”
It's very much a two-way relationship between government and industry, says Wardle: “It’s enabled us to have a clear understanding of where they want things to go in Wales, and indeed to be able to explain to them what the needs and views of a small and medium enterprise within Wales are.”
One of the most obvious needs for any business is a reliable skills pipeline, which is amply provided by Welsh universities. They have created centres of cyber excellence, producing world-class research, and talented graduates with the specialist skills the sector demands. Industry and academia have formed intimate partnerships, working together to form academies.
Marie Caruso, Arcanum’s sales and marketing manager, says: “We have been working very closely with the universities in Wales. It’s a great way to engage with the students and then actually employ those individuals when they pass their courses. I’ve worked with Arcanum for over three years now and it has grown hugely in that time. A lot of that growth has been down to the support from the Welsh Government and being based in Wales.”