Innova and RISE drive node development in Sweden

Swedish cyber security project, National Node, opens its doors to the country’s security firms

Sweden’s national node project has reached a new development milestone by opening its door to the country’s top cyber security firms.

Backed by leading state-run technology funding agencies Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE) and Vinnova, the national node initiative aims to create new advanced research infrastructure to support cyber security innovation in Sweden.

In practical terms, the national node project (NNP) will serve as a hub to advance demand-specific research and development (R&D), while strengthening Sweden’s cyber security expertise and capacity to deliver next-generation innovative solutions.

With membership on an invitation-only basis, Örnsköldsvik-headquartered Clavister was one of the first cyber security firms accepted into the project.

“The prospect of making a contribution to this important endeavour excites us. It’s pleasing that our efforts to create a dialogue around our Security By Sweden philosophy –thinking that holds that where your security comes from does matter – has found important partners in RISE and Vinnova,” said Stefan Brodin, the solutions area manager for telecoms and defence at Clavister.

RISE and Vinnova have been at the fore in driving security-led innovation node technology in Sweden. Since 2018, this has mainly been achieved through collaborative partnerships between state and private organisations.

The two state funding agencies were fundamental players in establishing a national research and innovation node for cyber security in December 2020. The initiative’s core mission is to stimulate the development of new innovative solutions for digital security that strengthen the overall competitiveness of Sweden’s business and industry communities.

“It’s pleasing that our efforts to create a dialogue around our Security By Sweden philosophy has found important partners in RISE and Vinnova”
Stefan Brodin, Clavister

Coordinated by RISE, the cyber security node has produced a cluster of different collaborative partners that have helped build a platform to share expertise, identify needs and initiate research and innovation projects based on a common national agenda.

The cyber security node’s steering group comprises experts from state and private organisations, including the Association of Swedish Engineering Industries (Teknikföretagen), the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), the Agency for Digital Government (DIGG), Ericsson, the University of Skövde, Sweden ICT and Sweden’s security and defence industry association SOFF.

The establishment of a national cyber security node creates a natural assembly point to connect cyber security competencies in Sweden, said Darja Isaksson, Vinnova’s director-general.

“A connected society and industry face new vulnerabilities. It is crucial to have the ability to address them proactively. The node will mobilise actors to stimulate the development of new innovative solutions that strengthen digital security. Building a connected and digital society brings compelling research challenges in cyber security, both in terms of the development of mobile networks beyond 5G, the internet of things [IoT] and the ecosystem in general,” said Isaksson.

The cyber security node project is designed to provide Sweden with a valuable opportunity to foster increased collaboration, competence building and strengthen research in cyber security solutions for the future, said Eva Fogelström, director of the security research department at Ericsson Research.

“For industries with activities in Sweden, digitisation is absolutely crucial for competitiveness. While digitisation creates endless possibilities, it also exposes vulnerabilities,” said Fogelström.

In a parallel initiative intended to boost the environment for innovation in the cyber security domain, RISE has established a Cyber Range testbed facility in the satellite Stockholm town of Kista. The centre allows Swedish organisations, public and private, to build a completely controlled virtual environment aided by an arsenal of tools to create stable and secure IT systems.

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The Kista Cyber Range, which houses a cyber skills development and training unit, enables companies and organisations to test new parts of a system to identify strengths and weaknesses. In particular, the facility has concrete advantages for small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Sweden that may lack the financial resources and infrastructure to perform advanced testing on add-ons to existing IT systems.

Vinnova is also funding the AI Innovation of Sweden (AIIoS) project which has set up a node in Greater Stockholm. Vinnova has committed SEK100m (£8.42m) in continuity funding to AIIoS from 2021 to 2024. The capital investment includes a funding provision for the establishment of a number of geographical nodes across Sweden over the next three years.

The launch of the new node is expected to sharpen domestic and international interest in Stockholm’s surging ecosystem of startups, large companies, public authorities and educational institutions. Moreover, the node has the potential to attract international IT security domain talent to Sweden and Stockholm, said Isaksson.

“AI Innovation of Sweden has a crucial role to play in bringing together all of Sweden to drive AI-based innovation that strives to solve societal challenges and contribute to Swedish competitiveness. The investment will accelerate developments in areas where Sweden can become international leaders,” said Isaksson.

The Agency for Digital Government (DIGG), which is backing projects to accelerate AI applications and related activities, has estimated the economic value of a complete introduction of AI across Sweden’s public administration system at around SEK140bn annually. This corresponds to 6% of Sweden’s total current public expenditure.

Supported by a long-term financing plan, the Stockholm-based node will enable AIIoS to scale up its presence and become a more dynamic engine in the Swedish ecosystem, said Martin Svensson, co-director at AIIoS. “We can, by accelerating the AI application, create a major dividend for Swedish competitiveness and social development moving forward,” he added.

The AIIoS will chiefly operate as a national centre for applied AI research and innovation. The primary goal is to accelerate the application of AI in Sweden through knowledge and data sharing, in addition to raising colocation competencies.

Regional nodes will form the main components of AIIoS. In addition to the node in Greater Stockholm, other nodes are located in Örebro and Gothenburg. Plans are underway to open nodes in northern Sweden and Linköping.

Key resources available to AIIoS include a project portfolio that incorporates a national data factory, which has been structured to create opportunities for partners to share unique data with other partners and run AI development joint projects in Sweden.

Backed by more than 100 partners from the private and public sectors, AIIoS’s portfolio includes at least 14 active and disparate projects. These are being run as collaborations between two or more partners. The projects cover areas such as data-driven healthcare, language processing models for Swedish authorities, and the use of satellite and road data.

Technology and financing partners in the Greater Stockholm node include The City of Stockholm, Google Sweden, the KTH Royal Institute of Technology, ABB Group, Länsförsäkringar Stockholm, Scania, the Stockholm School of Economics, Stockholm University and the Karolinska Institute.

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