I’m proud to say that I have been involved with the UK CYber Cluster Collaboration (UKC3) ever since its inception. Getting the company off the ground was great fun and, whilst enjoyable, it has been hard work ever since. The idea behind UKC3 came from a collaboration between existing cyber security clusters and the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS but now DSIT) to bring the clusters together, learn from each other and share good practice. Having a vibrant cyber security sector is a vital part of the National Cyber Strategy. UKC3 was also given the task of trying to fill in some of the gaps across the country. We started with 6 clusters, including CyberNorth and now have 13, soon to be 15.

UKC3 has been good for CyberNorth. It has given us funding to set up a team and, just as importantly, has shown us how to manage some of the issues we face as a cluster. It is fair to say that UKC3’s support has been instrumental in bringing CyberNorth to where it is today and gives us a great platform to go forward.

Last week, UKC3 held its latest pan-cluster meeting, this time in Manchester. These day-long meetings give us a chance for all the clusters to come together, to hear updates, exchange ideas and talk about the challenges ahead. I think this is the third time we have got together as a group.

The day started with an introduction from Linda Smith, chair of UKC3 and also MIdland Cyber. This was followed by my update on finance as well as a discussion with Sarah Raw on future reporting requirements. (Reporting is always a challenge!) Linda was back after this with KADA Research, which is doing some work on future sustainability for UKC3 and the clusters. This is going to be a real focus for us all over the coming year.

After the coffee break we had a couple of guest speakers: Ulrich Seldeslachts, LSEC – Leaders In Security and; Ed Greig, Deloitte Digital, to talk about emerging global issues and running international clusters. It is always useful to hear what other organisations are up to. 

These took us to a networking lunch, after which our own Danielle Phillips brought the group up to speed on the exciting Northern Cyber Cluster Collaboration project. Look out for more  details soon. This was followed by an update on the Ecosystem Development Working Group by Ben Shorrock, UKC3 director and Bristol and Bath cluster, as well as his colleague Lucy Paine. We have three working groups and try to have an update form one of them at each meeting. The other two are Skills Growth and Innovation Join Up and Development. This session ended with a welcome update on the move from DCMS to DSIT from  Suzanne Lowe, Department for Science, Innovation & Technology. We are very grateful for its ongoing support.

The final session was an escape room exercise by North Wales Police, normally delivered to school children but tackled with enthusiasm by us adults in the room. I am always amazed how the competitive gene kicks in and the seriousness with which people engage with the game. It was great fun and one to use at a future CyberNorth event.

It was a very useful, informative and entertaining day. By the time I got home it was also a long one. If I had one criticism it was that I would have liked more time to network with my colleagues. Whilst the clusters are all trying to achieve similar aims, each one is doing it in different ways and the pan-cluster meetings are a great source of learning and inspiration.

I’m looking forward to the next one already!