James Riley
December 21, 2015

Vic firms as Cyber Centre favourite

Vic firms as Cyber Centre favourite

Philip Dalidakis: Making a play for the cyber security centre of excellence

The Victorian Government must surely be comfortable front-runners in the competition between states to host the Commonwealth’s newly-announced $30 million Cyber Security Growth Centre.

It remains a weird and not always productive feature of our wide brown land that the states compete for business. And certainly that is the case in the innovation sector, and especially in areas of fastest growth, like fintech and cyber security.

The competition has always been fierce between New South Wales and Victoria. It is probably fair to say that Sydney is Australia’s growing fintech hub (Victorians would argue this point) and that Melbourne is Australia’s growing cyber security hub (you will not get agreement from NSW on this.)

When he was appointed as Victoria’s Small Business, Innovation and Trade Minister, Philip Dalidakis told InnovationAus.com that he wanted to make the state a centre of excellence in cyber security. True to his word, he has been courting cyber expertise ever since.

Most recently, the Victorian Government announced that it had signed an agreement with Oxford University’s Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre (GCSCC), which will establish its first ever international office in Melbourne next year.

Mr Dalidakis is confident Oxford’s presence will help to “cement Victoria’s reputation as a regional hub for cyber security.”

It is not known what inducements Mr Dalidakis offered Oxford to help secure its presence in Victoria, but it is perhaps not a coincidence that the GCSCC will be co-located in the just-announced Oceania Cyber Security Centre, a government-subsidised facility that “will bring together eight Victorian universities, the Melbourne-based Defence Science Institute and major private sector partners.”

The aim of the Oceania Cyber Security Centre is, of course, to advance Victoria as a regional hub for cyber expertise. It is a modest punt on building critical mass in the digital security sector.

Mr Dalidakis also announced that the state had signed a memorandum of understanding with Data61 – the digital/data arm of the CSIRO – to move their lead national cyber security centre to Melbourne. This centre will be a central part of a national network of Data61 capabilities.

It follows the announcement by the NBN Company that it would establish its Cyber Security Operations Centre in Melbourne (although this is perhaps not surprising given NBN Co’s Network Operations Centre is in Melbourne – it is hard to imagine them putting cyber security expertise anywhere else.)

Now, of course, everyone is waiting to see where the Commonwealth puts the $30 million it has earmarked for a Cyber Security Growth Centre, announced by the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

The Growth Centre is aimed at bringing together industry, researchers and governments to create a national cyber security innovation network. Details of the centre and where its funding will go is to be announced at the same time the somewhat-overdue Cyber Security Review is released – in early 2016.

The centre is supposed to develop a national strategy for the cyber security industry to become a global leader and attract investment from multinationals – which is basically everything Victoria is already trying to do on its own (and in its own patch).

The national centre would also coordinate cyber security research and innovation to reduce overlap and maximise impact.

Victoria would have to be thinking themselves as front-runners for a big chunk of whatever funding flows for the Cyber Security Growth Centre.

But it is hardly a one-horse race. Most of the international fibre connectivity is landed through Sydney – which is already the financial services industry hub (with all of the cyber security expertise that comes with that).

And Canberra, as the seat of government, boasts deep cyber expertise across both the public and private sectors.

There is a real issue here. This is a national priority. It may be an industry opportunity, but at its heart the decisions around how to grow the local cyber security sector must align with the national objectives, rather than the other way around.

The Cyber Security Growth Centre will be delivered in line with the established industry growth centre model. That means it will be an independent company led by a board of industry leaders appointed by government.

So there is likely to be plenty of interest from the state’s in who is on board with this new organisation.

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