Monday, March 28, 2011


Last week, all of my time was spent managing a major summit of leading academics from some of the world's top universities.

Attended by professors from institutions such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard University, Oxford University, University of Memphis, Boston University and the University of Central Florida, it discussed key issues in the critically important and growing area of geospatial cyber-physical supply chain, including environmental security, supply chain management and high performance computing.

They were joined by representatives from the United Nations, US Department of Defense, Northrop Grummann, Microsoft, IBM and Sonalysts.

You only have to open a newspaper these days to know that the field of cybersecurity is becoming a major issue for governments and industry around the World.

For example, the US Federal Government recently announced plans to spend more than $13 billion a year within the next five years on protecting its systems. In the UK, cyber crime is costing the economy up to £27 billion every year. In fact, cyber-physical security is now considered the number one threat to national security, being deemed more critical than conventional nuclear attacks. Last year alone, the US logged over 300,000 virus attacks on their networks and noted that organized crime now makes more money from cyber crime than any other activity.

To put it bluntly, in a week where the Minister of Education questioned the role of the University of Wales, the summit has been a tremendous success and showed what a different and innovative higher education institution can do.

What other university in Wales would have been able to put together such a world class summit in less than four weeks? That is the time that it would have taken for most Vice-Chancellors to get the memo about the event!

As a result, it is a major coup for Wales that MIT's Geospatial Data Centre and the University of Wales Global Academy will be working together to jointly develop solutions for cybersecurity leadership and training, a partnership that will place Wales at the forefront of developments in this area.

This followed the conclusion of the summit, namely that a multidisciplinary team is necessary to address the problems of cybersecurity and that the UK and the US would need to produce many thousands of experts in this field over the next few years.

We have also signed an agreement to set up a new research centre which will utilise the new £40 million High Performance Computer in the area of cybersecurity, bringing world experts together in Wales to examine the key issues in this area.

As I have said many time on this blog, part of the mission of the Global Academy, which we only established just over two and a half years ago, is about bringing the best of the World to Wales, and we have had a wonderful event over the last two days that will make a real difference to the discourse on the growing importance of cybersecurity in all aspects of our lives.

We hope to work closely with many of the participating academics to take forward the agenda identified by the summit and to advance relations between MIT and the University of Wales as we now plan to develop a joint training programme for taking forward educational developments in the field of cyber-physical security, an area that the summit agreed was the overriding issue for government, business, and universities.

Indeed, as the influential ComputerWorld UK magazine noted,

"The University of Wales could become one of the UK’s foremost cybersecurity education and training centres after a recent conference produced a deal to work with the prestigious MIT Geospatial Data Centre in the US.......Currently in the UK, cyber security training happens in a piecemeal fashion through a scattering of university courses across the country, or through computer science engineers who change tack professionally later on in their careers. Tie-ups like this bring in some outside expertise and training experience, which the UK still lacks, though there is a shortage of trained people in the US as it stands."

A number of academics at the event also linked up with Geolang Ltd, where we have our first Prince of Wales Innovation Scholar. This builds on previous links with MIT which have resulted in the company submitting bids for major contracts on both sides of the Atlantic,

As well as academic developments, the University of Wales was delighted to be able to show the best of Wales to the delegates - nearly all of the visiting academics had never visited Wales before. By showing them some of the best that Wales has to offer, including The Celtic Manor 2010 Club House (weher Simon Gibson gave a tour de force speech), the Wales Millennium Centre and Cardiff Castle, we hope they gained a great impression of Wales and will look forward to future visits as we develop this joint project.

We also had two pre-summit events in London, including a reception at Gwydyr House, hosted by the Secretary of State for Wales (above) and a tour of the House of Commons, both of which delighted the delegates.

Finally, the two day summit has been filmed by award-winning director Professor Thomas Levenson from MIT. Not only will the material will be used as part of the global training programme, but it is hoped that it will be turned into a  documentary and submitted to the Sundance Festival next year. Yes, you read it right - Wales will be represented at one of the World's premier film festivals.

So if anyone asks you what the University of Wales does for Wales, point them to this blog entry for starters.