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Abertay Uni’s £18m cyber security hub

Abertay University’s head of cyber security has revealed more about plans for a cyberQuarter that could bring hundreds of Dundee jobs.

The project won £11.7m of UK and Scottish Government funding through the Tay Cities Region Deal, combined with a further £6.5 million investment from Abertay.

The cyberQuarter will bring a new research and development centre to Abertay’s campus in Dundee.

It will provide a space where industry, academics and students work together on new solutions to real-world cyber security problems.

Dr Natalie Coull, head of cyber security, shares more about the project.

What are the plans and ambitions for the cyberQuarter?

The cyberQuarter will place Dundee at the heart of Scotland’s cyber security industry, at a time when there is a major shortage of skilled professionals in the sector, at Scottish, UK and global level.

The project will bring together academic researchers with established companies to work on cyber security challenges that will lead to the creation of new products and services, making businesses and citizens more resilient.

It will also offer real world experience for Abertay students and, in return, offer companies access to a talent pipeline of graduates from Abertay University’s nationally-certified ethical hacking and cyber security programmes.

Based on Abertay’s campus, the cyberQuarter will house a physical space for collaboration and experimentation using digital tools and technologies, and a secure cloud computing infrastructure to enable online teaching and learning, and digital provision of R&D and knowledge exchange activities.

Through the success of the Dundee videogames cluster, we have already seen what can happen when Abertay’s academic expertise and the talent of our graduates is mixed with industry collaboration and enterprise support, and we believe similar success can be created for the city’s cyber sector.

Now the that Tay Cities Deal has been approved what is the timescale for the project?

We expect work on the physical base for the cyberQuarter to get underway in Spring/Summer 2021, subject to final approvals linked to the Tay Cities Region Deal.

We aim for doors to open to businesses, academic researchers and students from Easter 2022.

Our project team will of course continue to monitor the pandemic and assess any impact that national restrictions may have on the delivery timeline.

Can you put a number on the potential jobs this could create for Dundee?

The cyberQuarter has significant potential for job creation in Dundee.

There is a major global shortage of skilled cyber security professionals with an estimated shortfall of more than three million workforce positions worldwide, according to the 2020 Cybersecurity Workforce Study.

Historically, Scotland has suffered from a cybersecurity talent ‘brain drain’, which has seen many of our best graduates go to work elsewhere in the UK or abroad.

We believe the cyberQuarter can provide a strong nucleus around which business growth can flourish in Dundee, with the potential for the creation of new jobs and start-up companies.

While the cyberQuarter aims to grow jobs in the tech sector, we also expect non-tech businesses to benefit by becoming more cyber resilient and developing new products and services that can be improved and tested by working with Abertay’s academic staff and students.

What other benefits do you see from the project? Is it likely to also attract academic talent to the city?

Abertay is already a well-established national hub for cybersecurity teaching and research and, in December, was among the first  eight UK universities to be awarded Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Education recognition by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – part of GCHQ.

The cyberQuarter will provide a physical home where that academic expertise can continue to grow, and we expect to recruit new academic staff as part of the project, and continue to strengthen our relationships with academic partners.

Bringing cybersecurity expertise to Dundee and retaining it in the city is an important element of what the cyberQuarter seeks to achieve.

What will be the value of the Pump Priming Fund and how will that work?

The cyberQuarter Pump Priming Fund will help develop new cyber products, services and education programmes. More details of goals for the fund and how it will work will be announced as the project moves forward.

Thinking forward to five or 10 years, what impact do you expect the cyberQuarter to have made?

While it is difficult to make any concrete predictions in such uncertain times, I believe that the cyberQuarter can provide the foundations for Dundee becoming a beacon for the Scottish cybersecurity sector.

Abertay is putting significant investment into this project, which is designed to spark inclusive growth to benefit the lives of people from the local area.

I’m confident we will see tangible results as the cyberQuarter becomes established.

It is an exciting moment for Scotland’s cyber sector and now is the time for companies and organisations seeking to enhance their cyber security practices to come forward to collaborate with cyberQuarter project.

Source: The Courier

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