AN initiative to create a new cybersecurity cluster in Cork could see the region become a global leader in the sector.
Cyber Ireland, facilitated by CIT and supported by IDA Ireland, is viewed as a major step forward for the cybersecurity industry in Ireland, which already employs more than 6,000 people.
The development of strong links between educational bodies, industry groups and government officials will lead to further job growth and could, potentially, see the cybersecurity sector be as strong as the pharma sector in the coming decades.
Cyber Ireland will provide a collective voice to represent the needs of the cyber security sector across the country and will address key challenges including skills needs, research and the development of a national community which connects industry, academia and government.
CIT will drive the development of the national cluster, which is supported by leading firms in the sector, including Johnson Controls International, Dell EMC, IBM, McAfee, McKesson and Trend Micro.
Donal Sullivan, VP and General Manager of Johnson Controls, said that the cluster could lead to Ireland becoming a 'global leader' in the sector.
He said: "The security of connected objects and cyber-physical systems, advances brought about by artificial intelligence or data-centric security are three examples of major challenges and opportunities. To ensure the continued growth, sustainability and international competitiveness of cybersecurity firms in Ireland, there is a need to support industry and address certain challenges. Cyber Ireland provides a unique opportunity to coordinate the many organizations involved in cybersecurity in Ireland and position the country as a global leader."
Tánaiste Simon Coveney hailed the development as a significant one for the Cork region.
He said Cork has a proven track record in cyber-security, with the likes of Trend Micro, AlientVault, FireEye, McAfee, VMware, Keeper Security, eSentire, Malwarebytes, Sophos and more, in the region.
Mr Coveney said: "The foreign direct investment of cyber security companies in Cork was championed by IDA and supported by business networks, local authorities, dynamic academic partners and indigenous businesses who provide services to these organisations.
"Cork's technology infrastructure, academic partners particularly Cork Institute of Technology and subsequent talent pool ensure that Cork is the ultimate infosec cluster. Collaboration is driving progress as IDA Ireland and Cork Institute of Technology lead the Cyber Ireland initiative."
Dr Eoin Byrne, senior researcher in CIT, who will manage and lead the cluster, said that an industry-driven, government-supported and education-supported approach is essential to the success of Cyber Ireland.
He said: "Without the co-operation of these three pillars, the cluster cannot reach its full potential. Industry must be at the core of the cluster, which needs to be championed by passionate and dedicated leaders. Academia is also critical in addressing the skills and training needs of industry. We look forward to engaging with industry and academia across Ireland in the coming months to develop a programme that is in line with international best practice in cluster development based on key learnings from successful cluster initiatives elsewhere in Europe."
Martin Shanahan, CEO IDA Ireland said: “Ireland has become a significant base of international technology and cybersecurity companies thanks to a growing, well-educated and flexible workforce with a rapidly increasing graduate output. The cybersecurity industry in Ireland is growing at an unprecedented rate and we believe Ireland is uniquely placed to benefit from increased global investment to position itself as a world class cyber security cluster.”
Ray O'Connor, regional manager with IDA Ireland, paid tribute to the forward-thinking educational bodies in Cork, which have driven the growth in the sector.
He said the presence of well-known cybersecurity companies in the wider region will likely see others target Cork.
"There will be definite benefits; the presence of big companies in an industry tends to attract others," he said.
"Cybersecurity is a growing industry that will be used by every company in the coming years. So much of what we do - whether it is education, pharma or other sectors - relies on data and the protection of that data so it is likely that companies will start growing their cybersecurity sectors as a result.
"Great credit has to go to CIT and UCC who anticipated this demand and started to put courses in place."