Construction work will start on a new £9million Centre for Cyber Security in Hereford in the new year – bringing up to 190 high-value jobs and making the region a magnet for high-tech firms.
Plans for the ambitious project cleared a critical hurdle after Herefordshire Council approved the launch of a new joint venture company with the University of Wolverhampton to build the centre at Skylon Park.
Work is set to get under way early in the new year with the centre opening its doors in 2020.
The centre will establish Skylon Park and the region as a leading hub of cyber security excellence in a sector worth £2.8billion in this country and £86.6bn around the world.
The 2,000 sq m building will play a crucial role in the country’s fight against cyber crime and offer more than 1,000 sq m of research and development floorspace in three cyber laboratories, business space for 16 companies and form an integral element of the University’s Cyber Research Institute.
Councillors backed the plans after hearing the centre would not only create 190 high-income jobs, but also be a major asset in attracting new high-tech investment into the region.
Cllr David Harlow, Herefordshire Council cabinet member economy and communications, said: “In Herefordshire, we have a very low level of unemployment, but our regional average wage is noticeably lower than many other regions of the country. It is our aim to invest in creating more knowledge-based and well-paid jobs throughout Herefordshire, and the new Centre for Cyber Security will help us achieve this. Cyber Security is a major growth industry and attracting well-paid experts to Herefordshire will bring significant value to our economy.”
Professor Ian Oakes, University of Wolverhampton Deputy Vice-Chancellor, said: “The new Cyber Centre will be a major new development for Hereford and the regional economy, providing world-class research opportunities alongside cutting-edge academic, vocational and educational training.
“Our strategy is to bring together our collective expertise in a centre of excellence with partners both in the UK and internationally. Cyber Security is a globally significant sector, and this exciting partnership will enable us to enhance skills and ensure the region’s businesses benefit from this important research area.”
Andrew Manning Cox, chairman of the Hereford Enterprise Zone, said the centre would be a key asset to Skylon Park as it continued to build a national reputation as an innovative, success-driven business community.
“This firmly underlines Skylon Park’s reputation as a home for the defence and security sectors, and will prove invaluable in helping us attract inward investment into the Enterprise Zone.”
Under the agreement, the University and Herefordshire Council will make a total loan of £5 million to the new company, in return for a shareholding.
The University has secured part funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in conjunction with the Marches LEP Local Growth Fund.
Marches LEP chairman Graham Wynn said: “We are already part of the region with the largest cluster of cyber security companies outside London. The new centre will strengthen our position at the forefront of a nationally-important sector which is growing at ten per cent a year.”