Northern Ireland cybersecurity centre gets UK government backing

6 people stood together

New Deal funding adds to EPSRC and Innovate UK support, creating Cyber-Artificial Intelligence (AI) Hub, doctoral training programme and masters bursaries.

Northern Ireland (NI) Office Minister of State Steve Baker has announced £18.9 million investment in NI’s cybersecurity industry at Queen’s University Belfast’s (QUB) Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT). This includes £11 million funding from the New Deal for NI.

Cyber-AI Hub

The investment will see the creation of a new Cyber-AI Hub at CSIT. It will bring together academia and businesses to increase NI’s cyber capacity, creating jobs and supporting the government’s £2.6 billion national cyber strategy.

The funding will help ensure a pipeline of world-class cyber professionals, with the creation of a doctoral training programme and masters bursaries. This will help to deliver on the government’s pledge of 5000 cyber professionals in NI by 2030.

Leading cybersecurity

An additional £3.3 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will consolidate the benefits achieved over the past 2 phases of UK Research and Innovation funding. This will enable CSIT to continue its work to:

    • link industry, academia, and government
    • protect citizens and businesses
    • drive economic growth

It will also enable CSIT to seed new research activity in emerging areas of cybersecurity. This will raise the level of impact nationally and internationally, and further strengthening the UK’s reputation as a global leader in cybersecurity research and innovation.

With an additional £4.6 million from project partners, the funding builds on NI’s impressive track record of attracting investment in its cybersecurity sector ahead of Belfast hosting the UK’s flagship cybersecurity event, CyberUK 2023 in April.

Supporting the national cybersecurity strategy

Cyber-AI Hub will see the creation of a UK government, NI based cyber engagement lead, joining the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology colleagues in NI.

This role, similar to positions in other regions in the UK, will engage directly with the NI cyber sector to support the delivery of the government’s national cybersecurity strategy. I will also support the levelling up strategy as well as exploring opportunities for further UK government funded innovation and skills initiatives.

The funding will also allow for the continuation of the NI Cyber Security Snapshot by QUB. This will highlight opportunities and challenges for the NI cybersecurity sector to be identified on a regular basis, further enabling growth in the sector.

Leading the way

Speaking at the event, Minister of State for NI Steve Baker said:

This funding will help to create jobs and strengthen Northern Ireland’s economy and ensure that NI continues to lead the way in cybersecurity.

We have world-class talent and expertise in Northern Ireland and the government is committed to developing cybersecurity professionals, here and across the UK.

The funding will have an immediate positive impact on NI’s cybersecurity sector, and with Belfast hosting the UK’s leading cybersecurity conference in April, I’m looking forward to seeing Northern Ireland’s deserved recognition as a global cybersecurity hub.

Supporting cutting edge research

For UK Research and Innovation, Professor Dame Lynn Gladden, EPSRC Executive Chair said:

For the past 13 years the Centre for Secure Information Technologies has played a key role in helping the UK to respond to emerging cybersecurity threats.

It is also at the heart of a thriving innovation ecosystem in Northern Ireland involving more than 100 companies and providing 2,300 people.

Together with the Cyber-AI Hub this additional EPSRC funding announced today will build on this success to promote further growth and support further cutting edge research that will benefit us all.

Thriving and world-leading

Department for Science, Innovation and Technology Minister Paul Scully, said:

Northern Ireland’s cybersecurity firms play a huge role in the UK’s thriving and world-leading tech industry.

We’re investing millions so people across Northern Ireland can gain the skills for exciting careers helping people and businesses defend against cyber threats

Investing in skills

President and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, Professor Ian Greer, said:

This funding boost will have a hugely positive impact on the cybersecurity sector locally, nationally and globally.

Investing in a Doctoral Training Programme is vital for the future of our society. We are investing in the skills of the next generation of leaders in cybersecurity, as well as progressing the Northern Ireland economy.

Over the last 15 years, Queen’s University has helped to put Northern Ireland on the map for digital innovation. We are proud of the work that takes place through the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) and are looking forward to further developing cutting-edge research through the broader Belfast Region City Deal-funded Global Innovation Institute.

Further information

Cyber-AI Technologies Hub

A consortium of 8 research and development intensive cyber security companies working on AI-based security technologies, is part of the hub.

The consortium includes many market-leading companies developing products that service a global export market and represents a good cross-section of the products and services within the broader cyber security market.

The hub is delivered by Innovate UK on behalf of the NI Office and the Department of Culture Media and Sport.

CSIT Innovation and Knowledge Centre

In 2008, the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) was chosen by EPSRC and Innovate UK to host CSIT, 1 of only 7 UK Innovation and Knowledge Centres (IKCs).

IKCs are a key component of the UK’s approach to the commercialisation of emerging technologies through creating early stage critical mass in an area of disruptive technology.

They are able to achieve this through their international quality research capability and access to companion technologies needed to commercialise research.

Top image:  Photographed left to right are: Professor Máire O’Neill, Regius Professor in Electronics and Computer Engineering and Principal Investigator, CSIT; Will Drury, Interim Executive Director Digital and Technologies at Innovate UK, UKRI; Minister of State for Northern Ireland, Steve Baker MP; Dr Kedar Pandya, EPSRC Director for Cross-Council Programmes; David Quinn, Executive Director of Queen’s University’s Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology and President and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, Professor Ian Greer. Credit: Northern Ireland Office

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help improve our online products and services.