Everybody wants to know what the future holds. Those who are a step ahead of the rest can foresee challenges and avoid falling into pitfalls, or they can spot opportunities and ride to success. This is as true in the cyber security landscape as it is in any other. Over the past few years, organisations across the globe have come to understand just how pervasive cyber threats are and cyber security companies need to form a collaboration network to strengthen their cyber shields. Understanding the future needs of the cyber ecosystem, UK Cyber Cluster Collaboration (UKC3) was launched to encourage greater collaboration across regions and nations of the UK.
In the past 12 months, having recognised clusters in 12 regions and nations, a further two emerging clusters that are expected to be formally recognised in the next six months, UKC3 has achieved one of its key objectives to support local cyber businesses, connect the UK’s cyber sector and fuel growth in the sector.
The funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has been pivotal to this success. It’s also provided the ability to harness growth opportunities for the clusters and amplify the impact they are having. Although the UKC3 is just a year old, they have achieved a number of important outcomes in a short time.
Richard Yorke, the Chairman of UKC3, explains everything we need to know about UKC3 and the organisation’s vision and its alignment with the National Cyber Strategy.
Enhancing engagement of UK Cyber Cluster community
In a nutshell the role of UKC3 is to drive regional sector growth through Cyber Clusters. “We exist to support Cyber Clusters in their mission to drive economic growth in the sector. We do this through funding and by enabling opportunities for networking, knowledge exchange, sharing of best practice, and identification of opportunities for regional and ultimately national growth.” Richard commented.
As a national body, the UKC3 works across public, private sectors, and academia and provides a single entity for organisations wishing to engage with the UK Cyber Cluster community. Founded in May 2021, UKC3 is a Not for Profit, Community Interest Company by a number of cyber cluster leads from various regions and nations in the UK. The notion of a national body for UK cyber clusters came about as a result of a collaboration project between 11 cyber cluster leads and DCMS who shared a common interest in driving regional cyber sector growth and recognising the vital role that cyber clusters play.
Speaking about how UKC3 engages with clusters, Richard said “We hold monthly meetings with all cluster leads, including new and emerging clusters, at which we share information and invite guest speakers to brief on key initiatives and programmes of work in the sector.
We have three working groups covering Skills, Ecosystem Development and Innovation which bring together cluster leads with an active interest in these topics to share knowledge and experiences of related activities in their region as well as identifying opportunities for clusters to collaborate.”
Investing back into clusters by funding their projects
Having earmarked a proportion of DCMS funding into a project fund, UKC3 focused on financing cluster projects that aim to deliver outcomes relating to these three themes:
- Ecosystem Development: activities and initiatives that broaden and strengthen regional cyber ecosystems.
- Innovation: activities and initiatives that support innovation and provide the conditions for high growth cyber start-ups.
- Cyber Skill Growth: activities and initiatives focused on addressing the cyber skills gap.
To be able to get projects funded, cyber clusters need to demonstrate and meet certain criteria, in order to be recognised by the UKC3. “Working with cyber cluster leads from across the UK, we developed an agreed Operating Framework for Cyber Clusters. As part of becoming formally recognised and funded by UKC3, a Cyber Cluster must operate in line with the framework.
The framework comprises a common set of principles, objectives and outcomes that provide a clear definition of a Cluster’s remit and objectives, enabling stakeholders to better understand and support the work that Clusters do in developing and growing their local cyber ecosystem.” Richard added.
Nurturing innovation to approach Ecosystem Development
A large part of our Ecosystem Development stream is focused on cross sector engagement. With increasing digitisation, all sectors are becoming more reliant on strong cyber expertise and capability in order to innovate and operate securely.
Critical National Infrastructure sectors are a high priority (Telecoms, Finance, Healthcare, Energy, Transport etc.) as those sectors are adopting leading edge technology (AI, Quantum Computing etc.). However, UKC3 encourages cyber clusters to form strong links and partnerships with the industrial sectors that are most prevalent in their regions.
Working closely with key regional industries to identify opportunities for cross sector innovation is a way to approach Ecosystem Development. Clusters with strong links to regional Universities can promote and identify commercial opportunities linked to the world-leading cyber research that is happening across the length and breadth of the UK.
In a number of regions, cyber clusters, supported by UKC3, are working with partners on the development of Cyber Innovation Centres and accelerators programmes with the cluster playing the crucial role of convening, building and nurturing the all important ecosystem and community around this.
Addressing skills gap to achieve cluster objectives
“The skills gap is a major issue for the cyber industry as is the need for greater diversity and we very much see clusters, with their strong regional presence as being a driving force in addressing this.” Richard commented.
There are a number of cluster projects which the UKC3 have funded that bring regionally based cyber industry partners into the local education scene to help inspire the next generation of cyber professionals. UKC3 is also forming links with the UK Cyber Security Council (the voice for the profession) and other national stakeholders such as NCSC’s Cyber First and Cyber Explorers to ensure a joined up approach to skills development.
By addressing this, UKC3 has thrived in a short period of time. Richard said “I am proud to say that UKC3 has achieved formation and governance of the organisation, supported and funded cyber clusters across the UK and also established relationships with key national players in the cyber sector including the UK Cyber Security Council, TechUK, National Cyber Resilience Centre, NCSC, DCMS and DIT.”
UKC3’s vision to align with the National Cyber Strategy
With UKC3 and the clusters’ core mission of driving regional growth of the cyber sector, the challenges UKC3 is focusing on very much echo the pillars outlined in the National Cyber Strategy.
Richard commented “Under each of these we believe the clusters will play a vital role:
Pillar 1. Strengthening the UK’s Cyber Ecosystem
- Identifying opportunities to drive growth of regionally based cyber companies
- Driving Cyber Skills Growth and diversity initiatives within each region and nation
- Building a dynamic cyber cluster network based on collaboration, openness and mutual support
Pillar 2. Building a resilient and prosperous digital UK
- Enable clusters to support the growth of regionally based cyber security companies
- Work with Cyber Resilience Centre (CRC) leadership to develop a CRC delivery model that leverages and creates opportunities for the regional cyber economy
Pillar 3. Taking the lead in the technologies vital to cyber power
- Support growth of innovative start-ups
- Identify opportunities for collaboration between cluster regions/nations
- Knowledge Exchange on the development of key technologies
- Establish and build on links to Academia
Pillar 4. Advancing UK global leadership and influence for a secure and prosperous international order
- Establish international connections and partnerships
- Support clusters and their members to develop export and FDI opportunities”
Cyber security is a rapidly growing sector and a key enabler of technological advancement, supporting economic growth and protecting UK plc. UKC3 has been launched to support Cyber Clusters and encourage greater cyber security collaboration across regions and nations of the UK.
To learn more about UKC3 and to update events across UKC3 clusters network or UK cyber security sector, visit here.