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New Cyber Security Centre Rotherwas

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A new purpose built security centre is to be built at Skylon Park Rotherwas in a joint venture between Herefordshire Council and the University of Wolverhampton. The University of Wolverhampton has approved £1.5 million to contribute to the centre as well as successfully securing grant funding of £4 million from the Marches LEP Local Growth Fund and £1.16 million of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).  Herefordshire Council has approved funding of £3.5 million to contribute to the Centre for Cyber Security

 

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Agreed, the building is hideous, and far removed from the expensive design guide and masterplan the council commisioned to give Rotherwas some cohesiveness. That said most of what has been built recently is pretty basic/grim/pedestrian, so we should not be surprised.

The last 'joint venture' the Council did was Blueschool House, and look how that turned out (and still no report on where the money went). We're endlessly told there is no money for essential services (despite having paid for them through Council Tax) and yet £3.5m is seemingly found for this. Skewed priorities methinks - the market should pay for this if they want it, not the Council Tax payer.

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Hereford Enterprise Zone - Cyber Security Centre joint venture with University of Wolverhampton

To seek approval for the council to undertake detailed legal and financial due diligence to determine the preferred partnering arrangements with the University of Wolverhampton (the University) for the development and operation of a centre for cyber security on Hereford Enterprise Zone.

The University propose to develop a centre for cyber security located on the Hereford Enterprise Zone, as a joint venture with Herefordshire Council. The proposed site will form part of a national ‘Cyber Triangle’ with GCHQ Cheltenham and the Government Cyber Centre in Newport, South Wales, and ‘Cyber Valley’ with Worcestershire. It will be an anchor building generating new research and short course opportunities that will feed into training and education in industry and within the University.

The University are proposing that the centre for cyber security is undertaken as a joint venture with the council.  It is recommended that the council agree to take a direct role in the development and operation of the centre for cyber security through the establishment of some form of appropriate partnership structure, such as a company limited by shares.  Further legal and financial due diligence will need to be undertaken to determine the most appropriate nature of this role for the council and evaluate the business case for the project and risks and opportunities associated with it.

 In July 2018 Council made provision within the capital programme of £3.5m to support the delivery of the centre for cyber security.

 When the due diligence work has been completed a recommendation on the way forward will be brought to Cabinet for consideration.

Decision:

That:
(a)   Up to £35k is allocated to provide the necessary legal and financial advice on appropriate partnership structures to secure delivery of the centre for cyber security in partnership with the University of Wolverhampton be approved.

Alternative options considered:

1  Not having a direct role within the centre for cyber security project but instead seeking to sell the site to the University of Wolverhampton (the University).

Advantages  
Should the University still proceed with the project, the council would receive a capital receipt in the order of £500,000.

All risk associated with establishing and operating the centre would pass to the university.

Disadvantages
There is a strong likelihood that the University would review the business case for the project and may determine to postpone implementation of the project, or withdraw from the project altogether.

The council loses direct influence on the aims, objectives and future operation of the centre particularly in terms of ensuring local business benefit.

The council loses direct influence in terms of using the centre as an asset to leverage national government cyber policy, and future funding initiatives to invest locally, as well as a draw for international business investment into the zone.

No opportunity for the council to benefit from future success, financial or otherwise.

 

2  Council undertakes to deliver the project itself.

Advantages
Avoid the need to enter into negotiations with the University.

The council retains 100% control over the centre’s construction and operation going forward.

Disadvantages
Need to find £9m plus to fund the centre – not part of the current capital allocation for the Hereford enterprise zone.

Funding has already been secured by the University from the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (Marches LEP), and from its own resources, with a bid to European funding already well advanced.

Likely to be significant fall out with those funding partners and an important local partner (the University).

The University is very experienced in starting and running business centres; the council would need to start from scratch, and seek to find a replacement and credible higher education partner, given the research and development, and knowledge transfer components.

Lack of operating expertise within the council so would require recruitment of additional staff or procurement of services to manage the facility.  
 

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Ground breaking moment for cyber security in Hereford

Work is due to start on the £9 million Cyber Quarter - Midlands Centre for Cyber Security in Hereford and was marked by an official ground breaking ceremony on Friday 7 June.

The trail-blazing project on Skylon Park, Hereford Enterprise Zone, is a joint venture between the University of Wolverhampton and Herefordshire Council and part-funded by the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Cllr David Hitchiner, Leader of Herefordshire Council, said:

Quote

“We are very excited about this joint venture with the University of Wolverhampton, which is a key investment in creating more knowledge-based jobs in Herefordshire.

“The new Midlands Centre for Cyber Security is a fantastic facility which promises to attract new hi-tech investment, draw expertise and create high-income jobs in the County. It will create a range of opportunities in the growing cyber security sector in Herefordshire, which already has an established, highly regarded security industry.”

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Professor Geoff Layer, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Wolverhampton, said:

Quote

“The aim of the centre is to tackle the growing threat of cyber attacks which could significantly impact local, regional and national businesses.

“The University will provide significant resources for research and development through our Wolverhampton Cyber Research Institute (WCRI) which is developing and leading an International Cyber Knowledge Hub to tackle threats in cyberspace with focus on providing expertise in relation to security for critical national infrastructure – particularly in terms of healthcare, transport and our physical environment including power grids, water networks and the nuclear industry.

“The shared facilities will also allow private sector businesses to benefit from the university’s networks and expertise as well as make use of the centre’s specialist training rooms and laboratory spaces.”

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Andrew Manning Cox, chairman of Hereford Enterprise Zone and Marches LEP board member, said

Quote

"The new centre would further underline the zone’s position as a natural home for cyber security, business, research and innovation.

Skylon Park has already been highlighted by the Government as having a crucial role to play in the growth of cyber research in this country and the new centre will put the zone firmly at the heart of this vital field.

The national and international importance of the work which will be undertaken at the centre will act as a beacon of excellence, attracting still more investment at Skylon, the only Enterprise Zone in the country to focus on the defence and security sector.

“The result will be good news for Skylon Park, Hereford and the Marches region as a whole.”

The 2,000 square metre building, designed by Associated Architects and built by Spellar Metcalfe, will provide significant resources for research and development across three cyber laboratories, advanced training facilities as part of the WCRI and additional business space for up to 16 cyber companies.

The centre, which secured £2.82m of funding via the Marches LEP’s Growth Deal with Government in 2017, is part of the new Cyber Quarter at Skylon Park, already home to numerous defence and security sector businesses.

The new centre incorporates a full height glass atrium to provide a dual break-out space and function hall, alongside the main three storey building that houses business suites, innovation rooms, IT workshops and a ‘Cyber Range’ – a cutting edge facility that will defend against the global rise of hacking.

The Cyber Quarter - Midlands Centre for Cyber Security is set to reach BREEAM Very Good, an industry-leading standard of sustainability and is set to open in Summer 2020.

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I’m not to sure what their aims are here. Cyber Security implies security across the World Wide Web for any business or agency that requires some degree of safety whenever they’re online carrying out their daily business transactions.

As far as I can tell, to achieve that noble aim, Cyber Security, you’ve gotta employ people who are at the top of their game. The going rate for the best of the best is somewhere in the region of 300 to 400 thousand a year. That sort of salary gets you what you want. Cyber Security! In short, you’ve gotta be a real clever bastard to ever hack into whatever it is they’ve been tasked to protect.

Now, if as I suspect they’re going to build some functional brick built box, call it a base for Cyber Security and then employ people on thirty odd grand a year, you’re going to end up with a brick built box occupied by people who’s abilities are limited and questionable and some intellectual distance off ever being able to compete with those who’s aim it is to make your cyber security systems insecure

Course, my cynical guess is these new Cyber Security firms, who will inevitably be paying peanuts for their employees and who’ll end up sat inside their brick built box down at Rotherwas, will be completely out of their depth. They will of course win contracts from the stupid and gullible, the likes of the Council and other public agents, simply because the bullshit words, ‘Cyber Security’ convinces them that these are the very people who should be used to protect the integrity of their IT systems.

Sadly, as always, bullshit being bullshit and cheap being cheap and profitable, the new wave of Cyber Security will soon be up and running until they suddenly discover that what they’ve constructed in terms of Cyber Security can be easily and quickly be hacked by a third year gamer youngster who’s still at school and who quite fancies the idea of a salary down in London that pays a rate ten times higher than the Cyber Security brick box down at Rotherwas.

My conclusion? Yet another pointless venture that’ll die the death of a dying dog and inevitably, because it’s a **** idea, haemorrhage more money from the public exchequer. As for the box. The brick built box. It’ll eventually find its purpose. Probably a storage space for old tired worn out furniture that was once used to promote some other failed **** idea that turned out to be a waste of everyone’s time.

Course, I could be wrong. They could employ the best of the best to achieve Cyber Security and pay the going rate for the finest minds. But, Hereford being Hereford, and the Enterprise Zone being the Skylon Park, somehow I bloody doubt it.

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