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The Welsh Cyber Security Revolution

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Ask an outsider to conjure up dreams of the Welsh valleys and their response will likely include rolling hills of green, mines, and Tom Jones (and the home of Digital Festival, of course). Whilst they’re not wrong, they may be using an outdated blueprint.

Throughout the 21st century, Wales has outgrown its coal-stained roots as it’s created a thriving technology industry and the fastest-growing digital economy outside of London, worth a huge £8.5 billion, according to Welsh Government statistics.

It’s no surprise then that global industry leaders BT, Airbus and General Dynamics have all set up shop in Wales, with many more eying a piece of the pie. Whilst the Welsh tech sector boasts everything from fintech to autonomous vehicles, a large part of its success is down to its thriving and ever-expanding cyber security scene. Residents Alert Logic, Wolfberry and Pervade Software vouch for this, and are all championing Wales as a hot bed for the research, development and commercialisation of their defence and security products.

And it’s not just industry driving the new cyber security revolution.

A common thorn in the side of UK businesses is the difficulties they face in recruiting from a pipeline of highly-skilled, work-ready technology graduates, particularly when it comes to finding up-to-scratch cyber security specialists. While they may have the skills on paper, they lack the hands-on experience needed to fully inhabit these roles.

To counter this, the University of South Wales, in collaboration with the Alacrity Foundation, Welsh Government, and Innovation Point, are driving the next generation of cyber security professionals. To do this, a radical new undergraduate model had been developed, for the cyber security workforce of tomorrow; the National Cyber Security Academy (NCSA).

First trialled with the National Software Academy, this innovative scheme abolished traditional lectures and instead saw students ‘learn-by-doing’, immersing them in real-life projects with real clients for a real insight into the working world. The results spoke for themselves, with over 150 Welsh businesses express interest in the project. Many of those that took students on board went on to hire them as soon as they finished their degree, due to them having up-to-date knowledge and, most importantly, significant experience in a real-world business environment. The NCSA currently fast tracks students working on projects set by a plethora of industry partners.

Similarly, a new venture – the Cybersecurity Workforce Alliance (CWA) – is providing virtual internship schemes, with outstanding results. A select few Cardiff University students have piloted the programme, which is designed to fast-track students into workforce readiness by taking them through team and role-based problem solving, applied learning, and challenges involving “insider threats”. The CWA will be unveiling how the first run at Cardiff University has benefitted graduates and employers alike at this year’s Digital Festival

Whilst the NCSA and CWA nurture the talent of tomorrow, the southern and northern Wales Cyber Security Clusters represent the talent of here and now. An informal network, the Wales Cyber Security Clusters meets regularly to network, educate, inform and share experiences and challenges facing the industry in Wales and beyond. The clusters currently boast 400 specialists from over 300 organisations, making it the largest cluster in the UK.

To further harness the increasing talent born and bred in Wales, Innovation Point is personally responsible for the nation’s first tech accelerators; The Digital Dozen and the Internet of Things Accelerator (IoTA). The goal of each is to fast-track a select group of promising start-ups to truly elevate them to the next level, and it’s no surprise that several cyber security companies have entered the ranks. Companies such as Geolang, Prizsm and Awen Collective have all benefited from pitching opportunities, workshops and one-on-one mentoring from ‘been there, done it’ entrepreneurs.

The combined strength of industry, academia and everything in-between are driving Wales’ cyber security success, and what better stage to showcase these great cyber security developments than at Wales’ biggest tech event?

We pride ourselves on having our finger firmly on the pulse of the tech industry when putting Digital Festival each year so of course cyber security is in the spotlight this year. We’ve amassed speakers from across the industry – from international juggernauts to small scale-ups and even smaller start-ups – to showcase the latest cyber security innovation and bring you the best and brightest speakers from the growing industry’s front line.

So, if that’s got you excited about Wales’ cyber future, make sure to get yourself to Wales Millennium Centre on 21st and 22nd May for what promises to be the best Digital Festival yet.