Security, defence, aerospace and transport sector solutions specialist Thales’ bold plan to establish a new world-class Centre of Excellence for digital and cyber security in Wales, first mooted early last year and welcomed at the time by the Welsh Government and academia alike, is now coming to fruition. Wales’ Economy Secretary Ken Skates first announced plans for the innovative £20 million R&D base last March. The new development is being located in Ebbw Vale at the very heart of the Welsh Government’s much-heralded Tech Valleys project. Plans are in place to ‘open for business’ with full operational capabilities in 2021.
Thales, itself a world leader in digital and cyber technology, sought Welsh Government support for the programme that now sees the establishment of the National Digital Exploitation Centre (NDEC). The company plans to work with the Welsh Government, Blaenau Gwent Council and the University of South Wales in establishing the NDEC such that it serves as a catalyst for digital and cyber educational training and research facilities.
Ken Skates commented: “The NDEC can help Wales to exploit the global opportunities of digital transformation and equip our businesses with the skills and knowledge they need to win a greater share of large regional and national projects. It can also serve to stimulate and create employment in high value technology businesses which is an ambition that’s right at the heart of our Tech Valleys project.”
Gareth Williams, vice-president of Thales UK’s security and cyber business, said: “We’re delighted that the Welsh Government is working with industry and academia on developing this critical capability and skill set within Wales. One of the major benefits of this digital centre is to develop a talent pipeline of people in this increasingly important sector. As well as developing specific skills, it will also enable businesses both large and small to use digital transformation in a safe and secure way. By their very nature, digital and cyber security are constantly evolving and this new centre will play an important role in that. We also have an established partnership with the University of South Wales. That’s allowing us to conduct invaluable research into the future of cyber security.”
As stated, the NDEC’s research capability and educational outreach is being developed in partnership with the University of South Wales, itself a strategic partner of Thales UK and founder of the National Cyber Security Academy in Newport.
Professor Julie Lydon, the University of South Wales’ vice-chancellor and CEO, stated: “This centre represents a significant step in developing South Wales’ reputation as a leading region in the growing global market for cyber graduates and research knowledge. We want the development to harness the academic research and graduate education together with the market insight and technological capability of industry. It’s an exciting combination that will be good for our local communities, for Wales and, indeed, for UK plc as a whole.”
According to a report published by BBC News, one of the projects at Ebbw Vale will include Williams Advanced Engineering (which, of course, oversees the ever-popular F1 team) working on cyber security research for both electric and driverless cars.
The BBC also reports that the Welsh Government has matched the £10 million investment from Thales with support. Construction work on the new development is due to start in the Spring, with Thales hoping to move in next year.
There are already four individuals in post (one of them being newly-appointed business manager and regeneration specialist Leanne Connor), with another 11 set to be recruited.