Lancaster Cyber Security experts help protect Manchester SMEs

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham
Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham

Cyber Security experts at Lancaster have provided the ‘know-how’ behind a new initiative which encourages Manchester’s SMEs to prepare for future cyber attacks and to support growth.

The £6 million Greater Manchester Cyber Foundry, announced in September to provide bespoke cyber security support for innovation to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), has now been presented to city-region and sector leaders.

The region’s SMEs can register their interest and find out how they can develop their business by building cyber resilience into their future operation.

Led by Manchester Metropolitan University, with Lancaster University and the Universities of Manchester and Salford, the Cyber Foundry will provide tailored support to businesses from all sectors – from digital specialists to bricks-and-mortar retailers.

It forms part of a wider push to make Manchester a digital leader. The regional digital and creative sector alone generates £3bn in output each year, highlighting the importance of protection for key industries.

The Cyber Foundry was presented by Manchester Metropolitan Vice-Chancellor Professor Malcolm Press, University Chancellor Lord Mandelson and Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, to guests at a special event hosted in the Manchester Technology Centre.

Professor Vincent Reid, Interim Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at Lancaster University said: “Lancaster University is delighted to be a key part of the Cyber Foundry. Lancaster's world-leading Cyber Security team with their Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council approved Academic Centre for Excellence in Cyber Security Research provides the Cyber Foundry with the skills, expertise and know-how to make the Cyber Foundry succeed within and beyond Greater Manchester. The support that the Cyber Foundry will provide to businesses will be crucial to the resilience of the UK cyber infrastructure.”

Professor Andrew Gibson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Manchester Metropolitan, said: “Cyber security is a matter of huge importance to modern society and those who succeed in harnessing it – such as the opportunities afforded by Industry 4.0 technologies – will be at the forefront of innovation.

“The Greater Manchester Cyber Foundry will utilise the combined strengths of the universities to provide an unrivalled package of support for SMEs. From blockchain technology to smart devices, the Foundry’s expertise will provide the region’s companies with the latest applied cyber knowledge.”

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “We have just issued a £32m tender request to enable full-fibre, high-speed data connectivity across our public sector sites. Greater Manchester is home to testbed environments for 5G, virtual reality and more – now, through the Cyber Foundry, we’re connecting businesses to world-leading cyber-security expertise.

“Advanced digital tech underpins all industries from retail to manufacturing. By working with the Cyber Foundry, SMEs will be able to take advantage of capabilities that are smart and innovative, and also safe and secure from cyber criminals seeking to exploit online environments.

“Greater Manchester is a major hub for digital innovation and research, a trusted place for digital business, and will soon be home to some of the highest data speeds in the UK.”

Strong cyber security is essential for other important sectors in Greater Manchester – such as finance and banking and Industry 4.0 applications – where cyber physical systems are used.

Cyber Foundry projects could involve: improving cyber security in blockchain and Internet of Things applications, enhancing security of cyber physical systems, increasing encryption efficiency, increasing cyber threat intelligence in systems, improving ‘cyber hygiene’ to maintain online security, and improving the design of security systems to help users

Nile Henry is the Chief Executive of the Manchester-based Blair Project, which delivers education programmes through digital manufacturing and electric karting activities.

He said: “The Greater Manchester Cyber Foundry programme has helped me to discover different ways of thinking to apply cyber security technologies in my business. For example, protecting our intellectual properties and designs, as well as in the future using cyber security to prevent people hacking vehicles.

 “We’re working on developing an e-concessions app that will allow customers to order their own bespoke graphene electric e-kart but keep their data safe and secure from hackers.”

The Greater Manchester Cyber Foundry was approved by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government in September 2018, which allocated £3m of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funding to the scheme.

The project receives £3m from the ERDF via the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, with partners delivering a further £3m in matched funding.

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