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Abertay University: £18m investment in cyber security hub to create jobs

Abertay University.
Abertay University.

An £18 million investment to form a cyber security hub in Dundee will attract firms to move to the city and create jobs.

The benefits of the cyberQuarter plans at Abertay University, which are part of the Tay Cities Deal, were highlighted as the university gained recognition from an arm of GCHQ.

Abertay University has been named among the first eight UK universities to be awarded Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Education recognition by the National Cyber Security Centre.

Dr Natalie Coull, head of the Division of Cyber Security at Abertay University with students.

The accolade recognises the high quality of Abertay’s teaching, research and outreach work and is linked to the University’s plans for the cyberQuarter.

What is the cyberQuarter?

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

Following the signing of the Tay Cities Region Deal, due to take place on Wednesday, 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.

An Abertay University games student plays a virtual reality game.

The cyberQuarter is also designed to attract existing cyber security firms to Dundee, support the creation of new companies and boost the security and resilience of the Scottish business community.

When the plans were first brought forward it was thought around 400 jobs could be created.

The university plans to remodel its existing premises to house the cyberQuarter.

Dundee at heart of cyber security

Abertay principal Professor Nigel Seaton said: “Being named a UK Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Education and the launch of the cyberQuarter project will place the University and the city of Dundee at the heart of Scotland’s cyber security sector.

Prof Nigel Seaton, Principal, Abertay University.

“We are confident that by combining academic expertise, student talent, enterprise support and industry knowledge in this way, we have all the ingredients for significant sectoral growth and new job opportunities, as well as innovation in research and business development.”

The Academic Centre of Excellence will become the pathway for Abertay students to interact with and benefit from the research and knowledge exchange activities of the cyberQuarter and its business links.

In granting Abertay Academic Centre of Excellence recognition, the NCSC also recognised:

  • the high quality of the University’s degree programmes.
  • a range of existing and planned work, including projects to increase female under-representation in the sector,
  • an initiative to retrain armed forces veterans with cyber skills
  • a commitment to skill-up all students and staff in general cyber security.

High quality cyber research

Chris Ensor, NCSC deputy director for cyber growth, said: “I am delighted we can now recognise the first tranche of universities as Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security Education, complementing our existing programmes which recognise high quality cyber security research and degree courses.

A cyber security student at Abertay University.

“It is a testament to the continual efforts of academics, support staff and senior management that cyber security remains high on their agenda.

“We very much look forward to working with them over the coming years and strongly encourage other universities to work towards achieving similar recognition in the future.”

Opportunities for Dundee

Abertay University was the first university in the world to offer degrees in ethical hacking and also in computer games.

The university’s range of cybersecurity degrees are designed to support the development of technical skills, taking an offensive approach to cyber security.

Dundee City Council Leader, Councillor John Alexander said: “Dundee is well known as one of Scotland’s leading tech industry hubs and the work being led by Abertay in the cyber security sector offers huge potential for the city to build on that reputation.

“It is fantastic to see the progression of these projects, which we hope will increase the resilience of Scotland’s businesses while also creating new opportunities for Dundee.”

Solving cyber problems

The cyberQuarter will brings together academic researchers and companies to work on cyber security challenges that will lead to the creation of new products and services, to make businesses and citizens more resilient.

It will form a platform for tech businesses to work together to solve existing and emerging problems, supported by some of the best minds in Scottish universities.

Leader of Dundee City Council, John Alexander.

With a global shortage of cyber security skills, the cyberQuarter offers real world experience for students and access to talent for companies keen to recruit from Abertay University’s ethical hacking and cyber security programmes, as well as partner colleges and through upskilling/reskilling routes.

Through the cyberQuarter, Abertay University aims to increase industry-academia interaction/collaboration, increase technical problem solving for industry and increase access to cyber employment opportunities in the area.

The cyberQuarter has three main components:
  • A physical space for collaboration and experimentation using digital tools and technologies
  • A secure cloud computing infrastructure to enable online teaching and learning, and digital provision of R&D and knowledge exchange activities
  • A Pump Priming Fund to allow the development of new cyber products, services and education programmes

Hotbed of cyber research and innovation

Welcoming the announcement, deputy First Minister John Swinney MSP said: “My warmest congratulations to the team at Abertay University for achieving recognition as an Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Education.

“This award from the National Cyber Security Centre is another step along the way to ensuring that Scotland is not only a cyber-resilient country but a leader in cyber security education.”

UK Government Minister Iain Stewart added: “I am delighted that we are seeing Tayside go from strength to strength as a national hotbed of cyber research and innovation.

“The UK Government is supporting this through its £150 million investment in the Tay Cities Region Deal, which will create thousands of jobs and support our economic recovery from coronavirus.”

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