The UK’s first academic research institute to investigate the science of cybersecurity has been launched with the backing of UK spying centre GCHQ.
The virtual Institute, which is funded by a £3.8 million government grant, is part of a cross-government commitment towards increasing the nation’s academic capability in all fields of cybersecurity.
Its research promises to make it easier for businesses, individuals and government to take informed decisions about how to implement better cyber protection measures, and "safely benefit from the huge opportunities offered in cyber space", said GCHQ, the Cheltenham-based "listening centre".
Established by GCHQ, in partnership with the Research Councils’ Global Uncertainties Programme - led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council - and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, the Research Institute is a virtual organisation involving seven universities.
It will allow leading academics in the field of cybersecurity, including social scientists, mathematicians and computer scientists from across the UK, to work together.
It will also connect them with the "collective expertise of industry security experts and international researchers to tackle some of the UK’s toughest challenges in cybersecurity, in both the public and private sectors", GCHQ said.
Francis Maude, minister for cybersecurity, said, "Already 8% of our GDP is generated from the cyber world and that trend is set to grow.
"Through the National Cyber Security Programme we are putting serious investment into the best UK expertise to lead thought in the science of cyber. The Research Institute will strengthen capability in a strategically important area, keeping the UK at the forefront of international research in the field."
The universities involved in the Institute include University College London - which will host it - University of Aberdeen, Imperial College, Queen Mary College, Royal Holloway, Newcastle University, and Northumbria University.
The University College London's professor Angela Sasse will be director of research. The Institute will be open for business on October 1, and is funded for three and a half years.
Sasse said: “This is an opportunity to work closely with colleagues from different scientific disciplines to tackle the technical, social and psychological challenges that effective cybersecurity presents.”
In a further demonstration of public activity in trying to protect the nation's cybersecurity, last week, GCHQ announced it was to offer the UK’s large organisations cyber attack advice under a new "Cyber Security for Business" programme.
Up until the 1980s the presence and location of GCHQ could not even be publicised as it was covered by the Official Secrets Act.