The new Research Institute, to be funded by a £3.8 million grant, is part of a cross-Government commitment towards increasing the nation’s academic capability in all fields of cyber security.
Studies conducted here will ultimately make it easier for businesses, individuals and Government to take informed decisions about how to implement better cyber protection measures and safely benefit from the huge opportunities offered in cyber space.
Established by GCHQ in partnership with the Research Councils’ Global Uncertainties Programme (RCUK) - led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) - and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Research Institute is a virtual organisation involving seven universities. It will allow leading academics in the field of cyber security (including social scientists, mathematicians and computer scientists) from across the UK to work together.
It will also connect them with the collective expertise of industry security experts and international researchers in the field to tackle some of the UK’s toughest challenges in cyber security across both the public and private sectors.
This collaborative approach between academia, industry and Government will ensure that research is "relevant" and "inspired by real world, cutting-edge security issues".
No room for complacency
Francis Maude, the minister for cyber security, said: "The UK is one of the most secure places in the world to do business. Already, 8% of our GDP is generated from the cyber world and that trend is set to grow, but we are not complacent. Through the National Cyber Security Programme we're putting serious investment into the best UK expertise to lead thought in the science of cyber. The UK's first academic Research Institute will strengthen our capability in what's a strategically important area, keeping the UK at the forefront of international research in the field."
Congratulating the successful teams, David Willetts - the minister for universities and science - added: "Britain has one of the largest online economies in the world and a growing cyber security sector, and we need to ensure this success continues. This new Research Institute will draw on the leading expertise in our universities from both technological and behavioural disciplines to address key challenges. It will help businesses, Government and individuals to better protect themselves from cyber threats so they can make the most of the opportunities the Internet presents."
Universities were selected to take part following a tough competitive process in which they had to devise new research programmes to address one of two key challenges:
- How secure is my organisation?
- How do we make better security decisions?
Addressing these very practical challenges requires a blended approach from researchers, drawing from both technological and behavioural disciplines. In the end, four teams were successful:
- University College London working with the University of Aberdeen
- Imperial College working with Queen Mary College and Royal Holloway, University of London
- Royal Holloway, University of London
- Newcastle University working with Northumbria University
University College London was selected to host the Research Institute, with Professor Angela Sasse taking the role of director of research.
The Research Institute will open for business on 1 October 2012 for a period of three and a half years.
Professor Sasse said: “I'm delighted to be leading the new Research Institute. This is an opportunity to work closely with colleagues from different scientific disciplines to tackle the technical, social and psychological challenges that effective cyber security presents.”
Protecting the UK in a digital world
The establishment of a Research Institute in the Science of Cyber Security is part of a joint response between GCHQ, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Research Councils’ Global Uncertainties Programme (RCUK) (led by EPSRC) and the Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance (OCSIA) to 'Protecting and Promoting the UK in a Digital World', the Government’s National Cyber Security Strategy.
The strategy describes how Government is working with academia and industry to make the UK more resilient to cyber attacks.
Prime objectives of the strategy are to:
- Tackle cyber crime and 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 to shape an open, vibrant and stable cyberspace which the UK public can use safely and that supports open societies
- Build the UK’s cross-cutting knowledge, skills and capability to underpin all cyber security objectives
Also in the pipeline are plans for a second Research Institute, increased sponsorship of PhD research and a scheme to recognise Academic Centres of Excellence in cyber security education.
Both the ACE and the Research Institute initiatives are harnessing the vital role that academia has to play in supporting the UK’s cyber security programmes but the roles are different. The ACE initiative recognises existing areas of strength. The Research Institutes, on the other hand, are about targeted investment to develop capability on strategically important topics.