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Government to fund nine advanced security projects

Nine academic projects have been selected to receive a share of a £10m funding pot as they develop advanced cyber security solutions using prototype chipsets

The government is to draw down £10m through March 2024 from various pots to fund nine academic cyber security projects selected as the winners of the Digital Security by Design (DSbD) grant competition.

Announced as part of London Tech Week Connects, £3m of funding will come from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s (DCMS’s) £1.9bn National Cyber Security Strategy, and £7m from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS’s) Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

The long-running programme aims to help make the UK’s technology infrastructure more resilient in the face of an ever-increasing volume of cyber attacks.

“We have a world-class cyber security sector and together we are working hard to make sure the UK is the safest place to work, connect and live online,” said digital secretary Oliver Dowden.

“With government support, these projects will build cutting-edge, secure technologies that will give people and businesses further confidence in our digital services and help weaken the threat of cyber attackers.”

Science minister Amanda Solloway added: “Cyber attacks can cause significant economic and social damage and leave a lasting mark on affected businesses.

“Today’s funding will allow some of the country’s most innovative businesses and academics to work together on digital solutions to tackle these threats. The UK not only has a proud heritage in computing, but is a world leader in digital security and we are committed to ensuring our country remains one of the safest places to do business online.”

The winning projects include HD-Sec, developed at the University of Southampton, which is looking at reducing exploitable errors in software design; AppControl, developed at the University of Glasgow, which is using advanced microprocessors to protect vital systems in areas such as transport, robotics, and power generation; and CAP-TEE, developed at the University of Birmingham, which is developing prototype microchips to protect the systems that shield personal data from hackers.

Other winning projects are based at Imperial College London, the universities of Birmingham, Cambridge and Kent, as well as two joint projects developed at King’s College London and Glasgow, and the universities of Manchester and Oxford.

All the grant winners are working with so-called Capability Hardware – a cutting-edge microprocessor based on Arm’s AArch 64 architecture, developed within the DSbD programme – which includes security safeguards built into the processor’s architecture and hardware system.

It can be used in anything from a supercomputer down to a basic smartphone, and its developers claim that it is hardened against a vast range of threats and that it will eventually “underpin secure digital devices and services around the world”.

The projects will further this progress and create enhanced software and applications for use in sectors that require highly secure technology, such as banking, health and retail. Each team will build a working example of their solution using the prototype chips to showcase the potential benefits of their technology.

UKRI’s challenge director for DSbD, John Goodacre, said: “The Digital Security by Design programme will radically update the security foundations of the digital computing infrastructure that underpins the entire economy. I’m honoured that these leading universities and researchers have aligned their expertise to this challenge.

“These projects will increase the knowledge and skills around this new technology, as well as research the opportunities this fundamental change offers to the security of computers across business and society in the future.”

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