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UK’s First Academic Research Institute to investigate the “Science of Cyber Security”

Issue date:
13 September 2012
Press release 

A NEW academic Research Institute to improve understanding of the science behind the growing Cyber Security threat was announced today.

The Institute, which is funded by a £3.8 million grant, is part of a cross-government commitment towards increasing the nation’s academic capability in all fields of Cyber Security.  Its research will ultimately 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.

Established by GCHQ, in partnership with the Research Councils' Global Uncertainties Programme (RCUK), (of which the cyber security element is led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)), and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Research Institute is a virtual organisation involving seven universities. It will allow leading academics in the field of Cyber Security 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 in the field to tackle some of the UK’s toughest challenges in Cyber Security, in both the public and private sectors. 

This collaborative approach between academia, industry and government will ensure that research is relevant and inspired by real world, cutting edge, security issues.

Francis Maude, Minister for Cyber Security said "The UK is one of the most secure places in the world to do business - already 8 per cent of our GDP is generated from the cyber world and that trend is set to grow.  But we are not complacent. 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 UK's first academic Research Institute will strengthen capability in a strategically important area, keeping the UK at the forefront of international research in the field."

Congratulating the successful teams, David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said:
"Britain has one of the largest online economies in the world and a growing cyber security sector, and we need to ensure this success continues. This new Research Institute will draw on the leading expertise in our universities from both technological and behavioural disciplines to address key challenges. It will help businesses, government and individuals to better protect themselves from cyber threats so they can make the most of the opportunities the internet presents."

Universities were selected following a tough competitive process, in which they had to devise new research programmes to address one of two key challenges:

  • How secure is my organisation?
  • How do we make better security decisions?

Addressing these very practical challenges requires a blended approach from researchers, drawing from both technological and behavioural disciplines.  Four teams were successful:

  • University College London, working with University of Aberdeen
  • Imperial College, working with Queen Mary College and Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Newcastle University, working with Northumbria University.

University College London was selected to host the Research Institute, with Professor Angela Sasse taking the role of Director of Research.

The Research Institute will open for business on 1 October 2012 for a period of three and a half years.

Director of Research, Professor Angela Sasse said: “I am delighted to be leading the new research Institute.  This is an opportunity to work closely with colleagues from different scientific disciplines to tackle the technical, social and psychological challenges that effective cyber security presents.”

Notes to editors

  • The establishment of a Research Institute in the Science of Cyber Security is part of a joint response between GCHQ, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Research Councils’ Global Uncertainties Programme (RCUK) (led by EPSRC) and the Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance (OCSIA) to Protecting and Promoting the UK in a Digital World, the Government’s National Cyber Security Strategy

    The Strategy describes how Government is working with academia and industry to make the UK more resilient to cyber attacks.

    Objectives of the Strategy are to:

    - Tackle cyber crime and make the UK one of the most secure places in the world to do business in cyberspace
    - Make the UK more resilient to cyber attack and better able to protect our interests in cyberspace
    - Help to shape an open, vibrant and stable cyberspace which the UK public can use safely and that supports open societies
    - Build the UK’s cross-cutting knowledge, skills and capability to underpin all cyber security objectives.
  • Earlier this year, GCHQ, BIS and RCUK announced the award of Academic Centre of Excellence (ACE) in Cyber Security Research status to eight UK universities.
  • Also in the pipeline are plans for a second Research Institute, increased sponsorship of PhD research, and a scheme to recognise Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security Education.
  • Both the ACE and the Research Institute initiatives are harnessing the vital role that academia has to play in supporting the UK’s Cyber Security but the roles are different. The ACE initiative recognises existing areas of strength. The Research Institutes, on the other hand, are targeted investment to develop capability on strategically important topics. 
  • The award of research grants to the universities in the Research Institute is subject to the universities agreeing to the GCHQ and RCUK terms and conditions.
  • In other areas, GCHQ, BIS and RCUK are working together to advance the level of cyber education at all levels from GCSE through to post graduate research.
  • Further information is available on the role of BIS in the delivering the cyber security strategy
  • GCHQ is one of the three UK intelligence agencies.
  • The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) takes the lead in cyber security within the RCUK Global Uncertainties Programme.


For further information, please contact the GCHQ Press Office
Tel: 01242 221 491 x 33847

EPSRC Press Office
Tel: 01793 444 404

BIS Press Office
Tel: 020 7215 3505

PN 63-12