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Scarborough Could Become National Centre of Excellence for Cyber Security

Wednesday, 28 September 2022 14:00

By Anttoni James Numminen, Local Democracy Reporter

A multi-agency plan to make Scarborough a “national centre of excellence for cyber security” is being proposed by Scarborough Borough Council.

Scarborough Borough Council is set to approve a £237,000 project that the authority hopes will make Scarborough and the Yorkshire coast a “national centre of excellence for cyber security with a specialist focus on operational technology”.

The Scarborough Cyber Security Cluster Strategy aims to form a partnership between government, industry, and academic institutions to create

“new opportunities, products, services and solutions to new and existing business” and to provide “new, innovative, and in demand cyber security skills”.

If approved on Friday September 30 by Cllr Liz Colling, the cabinet member for inclusive growth, the authority would release £140,000 of its finances towards the project in addition to accepting a £97,000 grant from Woodsmith mine owner, Anglo American.

A report published by Scarborough Borough Council states that the project will be built around “a network approach” that will draw on physical buildings including Scarborough’s proposed FabLab+ facility which “will have a pivotal role in providing a focus for activity in the medium term”.

The FabLab+ project is part of the council’s levelling up and “gateway” redevelopment plans for demolishing the former Comet building and creating new town centre digital workspaces.

As with many other currently active council projects, the Cyber Security Cluster Strategy will have a preliminary deadline of 31 March 2023, leading up to next April’s local government reorganisation which will see borough councils replaced by a new North Yorkshire Council.

A pilot programme, in partnership with Anglo American, Coventry University Scarborough, and Scarborough Borough Council, has been devised “to build momentum in the short term and as proof of concept”.

Aims for the March deadline include engaging with around 120 individuals and organisations on increasing cyber security awareness, training initiatives designed to increase understanding of career opportunities, and creating a “real-world” science challenge, posed by a local business, for groups of individuals to design an operational technology solution.

They also include supporting around 25 SMEs to “implement the steps needed to protect their business and customers from the most common cyber attacks”, a six-month paid work placement opportunity for at least two people interested in a cyber-related career, and introducing young people “to the fast-paced world of cyber security”.

Partners include GCHQ and Anglo American.

According to a report by the council’s head of economic development, Alex Richards, existing cyber clusters include Manchester, Cheltenham, and London, with plans for others in Cardiff, Belfast, Newcastle, and Scotland.

But  “notably, there is no established cyber cluster on the eastern coast of England and no cluster nationally with a focus on operational technology” which will be the focus of the Scarborough Cluster.

Operation technology relates to the technology and hardware associated with “the control of things, equipment, machinery[…] for example, the sensors within a domestic heating system or conveyor belt motors within a factory” according to Mr Richards’ report.

However, the council has said that it will require the direct support of a range of partners to make the project a reality.

So far the authority has already worked with the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) which has more than 200 people working at its signals intelligence station in Scarborough.

The report states that cyber-attacks are becoming increasingly frequent across the world, adding that “the expansion of the UK’s investment in offensive cyber operations creates new opportunities”.

Earlier this year Scarborough Borough Council’s head of ICT reported that the authority is targeted by hundreds of cyber attack attempts on “a daily basis”.

The council is also looking to partner with Anglo American and Cllr Colling will decide whether to “accept a further sum of up to £97,000” from the multinational company which has a mining operation located south of Whitby.

The mining site is “the world’s largest known high-grade polyhalite deposit” and is used to create nutrients for plant growth, according to Anglo American’s website.

Additionally, £140,000 of funding would come from the authority’s capacity building revenue budget, which was established in the 2022 financial strategy.

The report concludes that an invitation to tender “will be issued for the procurement of professional support for the delivery of the proposed activity”.

The report also seeks approval to “delegate authority to the interim director of regeneration to enter into contracts with the successful bidders”.

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