University of Manchester announces new academic partnership with GCHQ

The University of Manchester has joined up with GCHQ along with three other North West-based universities to create a “Security and Trust Partnership” in the North West that will see closer ties with academia.

In a first for the intelligence, cyber and security agency, the new partnership will see GCHQ publish its own research jointly with the universities. Previously all research written by the intelligence services has been kept within national security circles only.

The move signals a further move towards collaboration between GCHQ, academia and industry, as laid out in the Integrated Review. This partnership will allow research and knowledge related to national security issues to be shared more widely in order to help further the UK’s science capabilities, enabling faster innovation in a range of strategic areas including technology, behavioural sciences and criminology.

This approach will allow the agency to tap into fresh perspectives from across the institutions, to bring creative thinking to national security priorities in order to enhance the safety, security and prosperity of British citizens.

Professor Colette Fagan, Vice-President for Research at The University of Manchetser said: “We are delighted to be part of this important and innovative partnership and look forward to mobilising the digital research expertise of The University of Manchester to tackle critical national security challenges.

“Across our Digital Futures platform, and through our Centre for Digital Trust and Society, our thriving interdisciplinary community of researchers will explore the many facets of digital security and make a distinctive contribution to addressing the pressing challenges of keeping our communities safe and secure in an uncertain, digital age.”

The institutions involved in the pilot partnership with GCHQ are Lancaster University, the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Salford. The partnership will see GCHQ working with institutions holistically; based on their proximity rather than focus on a specific discipline.

GCHQ’s Director General for Technology, Gav Smith said: “Working more collaboratively with key partners, like universities, is crucial for the future of the intelligence services.

“It allows us to combine the expertise and perspectives from across sectors to innovate faster and more effectively to meet the challenge of an increasingly complex set of national security challenges.”

In addition to creating stronger links with universities, the agency hopes to attract a new, more diverse workforce by encouraging students from courses involving subjects like computer science, maths, behavioural science, criminology and linguistics to consider careers with the UK intelligence community.

This latest announcement is one of a series of academic collaborations led by the agency. Last year it announced funding for five academics through its Research Fellowship Programme for National Resilience. The scheme offers applicants from academia, science and industry the opportunity to work with GCHQ on some of the biggest national security challenges with successful applicants including academics working on counterterrorism and cyber security. The research will add to the intelligence community’s existing knowledge to improve understanding and better equip them to tackle some of the biggest threats facing the UK.

The research programme will contribute to the North West region’s “cyber corridor”. The corridor includes the National Cyber Force’s new HQ in Samlesbury, Lancashire, which draws together personnel from GCHQ, the MoD, the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), under one unified command for the first time to conduct cyber operations to keep the country safe.

Additionally, NCSC jointly with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) jointly recognises 19 universities who have been identified as Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security Research.

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