The Wales Cyber Innovation Hub (CIH) aims to transform the Cardiff Capital Region into a leading UK cyber cluster by 2030. Creating a pipeline of new cyber products, high-growth businesses and talent, the £20m initiative will establish high-growth companies, raise private equity and train 1,750 people in cyber skills. Here, its director, Professor Pete Burnap, from Cardiff University who lead on the CIH consortium, explains how a cyber cluster can bring long-lasting benefits to Wales.
“Society isn’t simple. We’re locked in an increasingly fragile and interconnected world built on digital technologies, from phones and business laptops to our food and energy supply chains. Potential vulnerabilities are everywhere – human error, software design faults, system breakdowns. As professionals in cyber security and AI, we often work to fix problems after the fact.
We began to map out the idea of a Cyber Innovation Hub in 2019. Our idea was to match our academic research and ideas with industry impetus, taking cyber expertise, spinning it into products and growing start-ups anchored in Wales that will ultimately upskill people and create prosperity.
The idea of a cluster is aligned with the UK’s National Cyber Strategy, published in December 2021, which defined key objectives to develop innovation partnerships, skills and foster growth in the Cybersecurity sector, which is also one of the key growth areas identified by Welsh Government and the Cardiff Capital Region Deal.
We aim to bring agendas and sectors together – industry and economy, technology, innovation and skills across the Cardiff Capital Region. Underpinned by an internationally recognised mix of cybersecurity-focused companies, we are building on firm foundations including a Global Top 15 leader in the sector (Thales) and Primes (Airbus & CGI), plus a critical mass of around 50 cyber SMEs in the region, and two National Centre for Cyber Security recognised centres of academic excellence.
Our unique selling point is the joining up of strategic plans and physical infrastructure around cyber-specific innovation, skills, incubation and product acceleration across industry and academia, which is not evident elsewhere in the UK.
Achieving a critical mass of activity with associated success in delivery will pull national and international investment into the region, with economic benefit to all partners, funders and the wider community.
The arrival of CIH dovetails neatly with the arrival of sbarc|spark – Cardiff’s bespoke Home of Innovation, where spin-outs and start-ups can incubate with support from the University. It’s a beautiful, creative home for collaborations, and a base for both us, the Cardiff Capital Region team and several data and software start-ups based in Cardiff Innovations.
We are closely aligned to the School of Computer Science and Informatics, and the newly-created Airbus Centre of Excellence in Human Centric Cyber Security – a multi-layered collaboration led by the global tech giant and Cardiff University.
All this is grist to our long-term strategic aim to coordinate existing excellence in cybersecurity – across business, academia, and government in Wales – delivering on the shared objectives of creating new and investable businesses and creating high-salary jobs.
The cluster will provide a mechanism and sustainable ecosystem to seed and accelerate new Cybersecurity products and businesses in South East Wales, featuring coordination and investment in regional skills development alongside the design of short and long-term training to serve the local Cybersecurity sector.
We aim to showcase a ‘living lab’ facility to promote rapid innovation collaborations, and act as a coordinated advisory body to Welsh Government and Cardiff Capital Region Deal to promote the national agenda for cybersecurity and provide input to policy for industry needs.
The Hub will be a collision space for innovators with access to a world-class digital twinning facility enabling the development, production and testing of new products and services where there is greatest market opportunity.
We are aiming high. By 2030, we aim to create 27 high-growth companies, and attract £24m in private equity investment. Our ambition to train 1,750 individuals in cyber skills.
Partners will give us access to testbed facilities and Cybersecurity capability that will benefit current and future CCR priority clusters.
In short, Wales needs a catalyst for Cybersecurity transformation and growth. CIH will be our centre of gravity in an unpredictable world, ensuring the region reaches its full potential.”
This piece was originally posted on Cardiff University's Home of Innovation blog.