IDA to fund new cybersecurity cluster to put Ireland on global map

First time the State agency has funded an initiative of this kind

The idea for the new cluster arose following a cybersecurity forum held in Cork by CIT last year

Plans to position the Republic as a leading location for cybersecurity expertise have received a significant boost with IDA Ireland agreeing to fund a new national cluster focused on the technology.

This is the first time the State body has funded such an initiative and it comes after calls from industry for action to help it meet key challenges and boost awareness of the strength of the sector locally.

Cyber Ireland, which will be hosted and run from Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), intends to provide a collective voice for companies working in cybersecurity, which collectively employ more than 6,000 people in the Republic.

The idea for the new cluster arose after a cybersecurity forum last year at which the idea for an organisation that would represent the sector were first floated.


New cluster

The new cluster will have a board consisting of representatives from industry, academia and Government. Workshops outlining the organisation’s plans are to be held in Dublin, Cork and Galway early next year, with the aim of having the body up and running by April.

There are approximately 60 Irish-owned cybersecurity companies currently in operation and more than 40 multinationals, many of which are centred in and around Cork city.

The Republic is already seen as having a relatively strong cybersecurity ecosystem, with Donal Travers, the head of technology group at IDA Ireland, saying the type of jobs being created in the sector have improved greatly in recent years.

“We’ve really moved up the value chain. A lot of cybersecurity companies were initially focused on creating roles in support and shared services but now at least a third of them, and possibly up to a half, have core engineering here,” he said.

Among the challenges highlighted by industry are sourcing talent given that unemployment in the sector is currently at zero per cent globally and an estimated 3.5 million job openings are expected over the next five years. Forbes magazine predicts a global shortage of 1.8 million skilled security workers in 2022.

This demand for talent comes as the cost of cybercrime has skyrocketed to $600 billion, equivalent to about 0.8 per cent of global GDP.

"This is not betting on cybersecurity as a 'sexy' industry. This is a strategic bet," said Eoin Byrne, cluster manager at CIT. "All the ingredients are there as is and this is just about putting more supports in place to connect all the key actors and organisations that are already doing important work in this space.

“This is not about creating jobs quickly. This is a long-term play to develop a stronger and more resilient ecosystem for cybersecurity,” he added.

Higher wages

Clusters such as Cyber Ireland have been seen to deliver not only better roles but also to increased company formations, higher wages and innovation and better resilience for the sector as a whole, Mr Byrne noted.

“This is about helping to improve the type of operations that companies have locally and to increase the amount of research and development they are doing through better collaboration and so on. It is much more than just creating networking opportunities,” he said.

Johnson Controls, the multinational conglomerate headquartered in Cork, is one of the industry players keen to get involved in Cyber Ireland. Donal Sullivan, company vice-president and general manager for its Irish operations, said he believed there were huge opportunities for Ireland Inc in positioning itself as a leading player in cybersecurity.

“We’re in a good position in terms of the industry expertise in the country and the need for cybersecurity is only growing. That represents a significant opportunity but one we can only take advantage of if we work together through initiatives such as the cluster to ensure we can scale,” he said.

Other companies to express their support for Cyber Ireland include Dell EMC, McAfee, Trend Micro, IBM and McKesson.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist