North West cyber ecosystem to unlock opportunities for commercialisation

Image of event signage and delegates networking

Lancaster University has collaborated with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to discuss the importance of a cyber ecosystem in the North West with key stakeholders in the region.

A recent event drew on the experience of MIT and the delivery of their Regional Entreprenurial Acceleration Program (REAP) which engages communities around the world to strengthen innovation-driven entrepreneurial ecosystems.

As part of the North West CyberCom project, funded by Research England part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), over 60 delegates convened from the North West ecosystem across five key stakeholder groups: government, university, corporate, risk capital and entrepreneurs. The stakeholders who are all aligned to cyber innovation in the North West’s security, defence, manufacturing and energy sectors discussed the cyber ecosystem in the region and shared best practice in supporting innovation driven enterprises, entrepreneurial ecosystems and promoting growth.

Lancaster University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Schofield opened the half-day event. He stressed the importance of cyber commercialisation in the region and growing strategically in this area so that the North West can thrive and lead in this field.

Dr Phil Budden, Senior Lecturer in the Tech Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Strategy Group at MIT School of Management focusses on innovation ecosystems around the world, their key stakeholders and ‘corporate innovation’. He delivered the keynote presentation on 'Global lessons from innovation ecosystems for cyber security'. He explained the success of the REAP programme where innovative ecosystems support economic growth and how this is now being explored locally in a REAP focussed UK programme. He discussed how universities play a key role in supporting these ecosystems globally and for leading wider national security innovation in the UK.

Andrew Roughan, CEO at Plexal, Professor Simon Cook, Professor in Practice at Lancaster University and Dr Alan Gilchrist, Marketing Director of Lancaster University Spin Out Quantum Base participated in a panel discussion. They explored the current ecosystem, what it will look like in ten-year’s time and shared their views on what success will look like. They discussed the role of an academic institute and the increasing role that Universities will have in developing thought leadership, research, innovation, spin outs and the skills and talent pipeline.

Simon Cook said: “It was fantastic to see six North West universities coming together in Lancaster with local government, industry, investors, and entrepreneurs. If we all continue to work together with our partners in MIT, Plexal and CRSI, I’m convinced that we can make the NW the leading region in the country for cyber innovation and investment.”

Throughout the event, the stakeholder groups shared their perspectives, challenges and opportunities and gained a collective understanding of what makes a successful and sustainable innovation driven ecosystem. They shared best practice in developing regional specialisation, supporting innovation driven enterprises and promoting growth, along with their own lessons for a NW Cyber Corridor.

Lancaster University, which hosted the event, has a strong track-record of working across disciplines and in partnership with global experts in business, academia and the community to effectively tackle real world challenges including cyber security. The event which aims to be a catalyst for the NW CyberCom project came to a successful close with speakers and delegates addressing the next steps for developing the North West cyber ecosystem.

Other speakers included:

  • Gordon Bateman, CEO, CRSI
  • David Eaves, Westinghouse
  • Dr Natalie Jones, Head of Regional Development (NW), The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)
  • Mandy Parkinson, Professor of Business Innovation, Salford Business School
  • Helen Wilding, Head of Digital Policy, Greater Manchester Combined Authority
  • Dion Williams, Associate Dean for Enterprise & Engagement and Director of RES, Lancaster University

The event is part of North West Cyber Security Connect for Commercialisation (NW CyberCom). The project aims to unlock opportunities for commercialisation from universities across the region to solve Mission Critical Challenges aligned to cyber innovation in the region’s nationally significant security, defence, advanced manufacturing and energy/net zero sectors.

The other universities involved in the project are The University of Salford, The University of Liverpool, Manchester Metropolitan University, The University of Manchester and The University of Central Lancashire.

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