Plan for Commonwealth Cyber Initiative Approved / Moving Forward

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Members of the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative Blueprint Advisory Council met in September to discuss the plan.
Members of the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative Blueprint Advisory Council met in September to discuss the plan.

A major Virginia cybersecurity initiative is moving from planning to implementation stages.

The Virginia Research Investment Committee (VRIC) recently accepted the blueprint for the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative (CCI), which is a network of cyber research, innovation, and learning created by connecting Virginia’s public universities, community colleges, and businesses. The VRIC administers a fund that aims to position Virginia as a national leader in science and technology research, development, and commercialization.

Virginia Tech President Tim Sands formally presented this blueprint to the VRIC on Dec. 11. The blueprint also garnered letters of support from four companies and 10 presidents of institutions of higher education.

The blueprint is the culmination of five months of work involving more than 80 representatives from 50 universities, companies, government, and other organizations.

One of the goals of CCI, as outlined in Virginia’s 2018-2020 budget, is to build a commonwealth-wide ecosystem of cybersecurity innovation, commercialization, and education that makes Virginia a leader in the intersection of cybersecurity with next-generation technologies, such as artificial intelligence, 5G communications, and the internet of things.

The blueprint highlights the strength of existing research and education programs across Virginia’s institutions of higher education and plans to coordinate and align those programs to build a network that is greater than the sum of its parts. It also identifies opportunities for investment in drawing top talent to Virginia.

“To make Virginia a national leader in the new cybereconomy, we must be bold in building on and coordinating our existing strengths across the commonwealth, while also establishing new programs,” said Jim Dyke, a member of the VRIC who served on the CCI blueprint executive committee. “The blueprint notes that CCI success is enhanced by political and business leaders also addressing key pipeline issues, such as early childhood education, business engagement with and advocacy for K-12 education reform, and encouraging more women and minorities to enter the cyber, IT arena.”

CCI will consist of a hub in Northern Virginia anchored by Virginia Tech and regional nodes across the commonwealth, each led by an institution of higher education.

Regional nodes will be vibrant centers of research, learning, and innovation tailored to their local ecosystem. VRIC established a working group to develop a process for certifying regional nodes, due to the full committee in March.

The hub will combine researchers, innovators, students, entrepreneurs, and others, all focused on cyber-physical system security, with an initial focus on 5G communications and machine learning.

“Through smart investment and effective collaboration, CCI will build capabilities and programs that will make Virginia a leader in cybersecurity, attracting talent, industry, and partners from across the nation and around the world,” Sands said.