Background to the formation of Cyber Security Clusters
In 2011, the updated UK Government’s National Security Strategy classed “cyber security” as one of the top priorities for national security, alongside international terrorism, international military crises and natural disasters.
In response to this classification, the Government published the UK Cyber Security Strategy in November 2011. It sets out how the UK will support economic prosperity and protect national security by building a more trusted and resilient digital environment.
Four Strategy Objectives were published in the UK Cyber Security Strategy:
- Make the UK one of the most secure places in the world to do business in cyberspace
- Make the UK more resilient to cyber attack and better able to protect our interests in cyberspace
- Help shape an open, vibrant and stable cyberspace that supports open societies
- Build the UK’s cyber security knowledge, skills and capability
Each year, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, has provided a Progress Report explaining what has been implemented to prevent cyber crime and make the UK a safer place to do business. For example:
- Setting up a National Cyber Crime Unit within the National Crime Agency, bringing together Police eCrime Unit and SOCA
- Building the Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership (CISP) with businesses to allow the exchange information on cyber threats in a trusted environment
- Providing cyber security advice to businesses such as the 10 Steps to Cyber Security Booklet already downloaded by more than 7,000 businesses.
- Working with industry on cyber security standards such as IASME and the Cyber Essentials Scheme to give organisations a clear baseline to aim for to protect themselves against the most common cyber security threats.
- Making more than £500,000 available to UK SMEs via Cyber Security Innovation Vouchers to improve their cyber security and protect their business ideas, administered by the Technology Strategy Board.
In addition to these Government initiatives, indirect support is also provided for individuals, organisations and groups who want to make a contribution to the combined effort of achieving the UK Cyber Security Strategy Objectives.
A good example of this is the formation of Cyber Security Clusters.
A number of Clusters have been formed that are centred around universities. There are 12 centres for excellence in academic research in this field, where the body of knowledge on cyber crime and cyber security is being expanded by students and faculties. These Clusters increasingly involve input from specialist cyber security companies and organisations who’s “real-world” experience helps to accelerate the learning process and act as a catalyst for ideas and a proving ground for innovation.
More recently, Clusters have started forming comprised entirely of small businesses. This approach was pioneered by the Malvern Cyber Security Cluster - a group of more than 50 small cyber security companies, centred in Worcestershire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, who cooperate on a range of initiatives to grow their cyber security businesses, improve the cyber security of local enterprises, and also raise awareness of cyber security in their combined customer base.
The success of the Malvern Cluster has led to the formation of a UK Cyber Security Forum under which a number of new Clusters are being formed. These include the North West, North East, Cambridge, London and more are springing up all the time.
The South Wales Cyber Security Cluster was the third such Cluster to be formed.
Welsh Government targeting support for business in Wales
The Welsh Government is the devolved Government for Wales.
The Ministers and Council General exist to help improve the lives of people in Wales and make our nation a better place in which to live and work by focussing resources across devolved areas of public life such as health, education and the environment.
In addition, specific support for industry-led investment is targeted at nine key sectors and Information, Communication & Technology (ICT) is one of these sectors. Each sector has their own panel, made up of private sector business people, who advise on opportunities within the key sectors. The role of each sector panel is to provide advice to Ministers on the opportunities and need of the different sectors. They are to use their private sector success and experience to help the Welsh Government identify the best opportunities for business growth.
The opportunities for business growth in ICT are clearly centred on Cyber Security as David Jones, Secretary of State for Wales pointed out: “The UK’s cyber security sector is worth around £2.8bn and growing fast – by 2017 it is forecast to be worth more than £3.4bn. Many of these companies are concentrated in the Severn Valley – including the Newport and Cardiff areas. We are in a global race and it’s critical for Wales to keep at the forefront of innovative technology ideas".
Recognising this, the Welsh Government has a stated aim to become a UK hub for cyber security companies and a number of Departments are running initiatives aimed at encouraging cyber security businesses and stimulating growth, both locally and through export.
Bridging the gap between Government and business
One of the biggest challenges facing Government is how to communicate effectively with a large population.
This same challenge faces the Departments, Panels and Teams in Welsh Government. A huge amount of effort and good work is being done to devise and implement schemes and initiatives to help business in Wales and in particular to assist cyber security businesses but how do these teams get their message out to the thousands of small businesses striving to survive and grow? How many times have business people only discovered the availability of grants or funding when they have read in newspapers about it having already been awarded to someone else?
A South Wales Cyber Security Cluster has been formed, with the active support of the Welsh Government, by a number of cyber security focussed businesses in the Cardiff area including Urquhart-Dykes & Lord LLP and Pervade Software.
The aims of the Cluster are two-fold:-
- To support the Welsh Government's commitment to Cyber Security (and UK Government's Cyber Security Strategy) by building cyber security knowledge, skills and capabilities in the Region to make their client's businesses more resilient to cyber attacks and the Region one of the most secure places in the world to do business.
- To support the members of the cluster by communicating National and International initiatives and trade opportunities, providing a networking platform to share ideas and best practice, encouraging collaboration and identifying partnership opportunities so that small cyber security specialist businesses in Wales can find new ways to grow.
By bringing cyber security business together, both in person at regular meetings and in distribution groups, the dissemination of vital information about initiatives and opportunities is made much simpler.
The South Wales Cyber Security Cluster meetings are attended by representatives of Welsh Government Innovation, ICT and Cyber Security Teams, Law Enforcement Cyber Crime Teams and Higher & Further Education as well as business people. Information is passed directly to the Cluster as well as through the UK Cyber Security Forum so that it can be passed on to the members.
In this way, the Cluster is contributing directly to bridging the gap between Government and business.