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A Budget that kept me awake for the right reason – cyber security

When you work in cyber security and use the tech talent of our university system, any government announcement about these sectors tends to get your attention, even when it’s in the Budget.

Although the headlines were chiefly about the end of austerity and the digital sales tax slapped on Google and Amazon, the Chancellor, Philip Hammond also promised to invest billions of pounds in cyber capabilities and the “scientific and technological discovery pouring out” of the country’s universities and tech industries.

Very encouraging, I would say, especially as he also promised £150m to fund technology fellowships that attract “overseas tech talent to our shores”.

The focus on investment in talent is timely. At CyberHive, where we work in close partnership with the University of Oxford, we know more than anyone that our best universities are a hugely important source of inspiration, innovation and practical applications. Anything that boosts that creativity and access to genuine talent is to be welcomed.

I just hope that some of this extra government funding finds its way into education so that as a nation we can train a new generation of engineers who can help protect all UK organisations and businesses from proliferating cyber threats. At least the extra money announced should give added impetus to the creation of new standards and a set of best-practices in cyber security.

We certainly need to address the looming skills gap in cyber security. According to one estimate, the world will be short of 1.8 million cyber security workers by 2022. The UK will not be immune. We face a real shortage of talent in this sector and it is vital we do all we can to nurture native skills and attract the most gifted individuals from all corners of the globe.

What else was good about the budget?  Well, Mr Hammond also said the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) would be augmented to £38bn by 2023-24. Some £200m from the NPIF will be used to pilot “innovative approaches in deploying full-fibre internet in rural locations”, beginning with primary schools.

That certainly is a good idea, because the urban-rural divide in connectivity bedevils even the most advanced nations. If we are to give the rising generations a genuinely digital-first mindset, they will need access to the best quality connectivity from an early age – which will definitely have to be in primary and quite possibly, infant schools.

Anything that boosts our pool of digital and cyber security talent is to be applauded. We have immense potential in the UK, but it needs to be nurtured and stimulated. At least the Budget made some progress in the right direction.

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