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Belfast to house new ‘Cyber-AI Hub’ following £18.9 million government investment

The new hub will support the development of AI-enabled security tools and products

The creation of a new ‘Cyber-AI Hub’ in Belfast has been announced by the UK government following an £18.9 million investment package for the region’s cyber security sector.  

Unveiled Wednesday, the Cyber-AI Hub has been hailed as a major step in helping to further develop Northern Ireland’s cyber security industry and will be located at the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT).  

Steve Baker, minister of state for Northern Ireland, said the centre will enable job creation across the broader NI cyber sector and provide future support for the research and development of AI-enabled cyber security projects.  

“This funding will help to create jobs and strengthen Northern Ireland’s economy, ensuring NI continues to lead the way in cyber security,” he said.  

“We have world-class talent and expertise in NI, and the government is committed to developing cyber security professionals, here and across the UK.” 

A consortium of eight organisations focused on research and development – including Nvidia - will be housed at the site to support work on AI-based security technologies, the government confirmed.  

“The consortium includes many market-leading companies developing products that service a global export market and represents a good cross-section of the products and services within the broader cyber security market,” the government said in a statement.  

AI in cyber security 

The use of AI tools in cyber security has grown rapidly in recent years amidst the spiralling threat landscape encountered by businesses globally.  

Research from Acument Research and Consulting last year found that the global market for AI-based security products is expected to reach over $133 billion (approximately £110 billion) by 2030.  

Increasingly, AI is being used by organisations to counter the threat posed by malware, automate security processes, and enhance threat detection monitoring.  

However, while businesses continue to reap the benefits of AI-based security tools, threat actors have also begun exploring the use of AI in waging attacks – and this is raising concerns among business leaders.  

The emergence of powerful generative AI models, such as ChatGPT, has spiked worries that organisations could soon face a wave of AI-supported attacks.  

A report from BlackBerry this month found that 51% of IT professionals predict they are “less than a year away” from a successful cyber attack being credited to ChatGPT.  

“Some think that could happen in the next few months. And more than three-fourths of respondents (78%) predict a ChatGPT-credited attack will certainly occur within two years,” the report stated.  

Northern Ireland’s burgeoning cyber ecosystem 

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This funding package comes amid a period of exciting growth for Northern Ireland’s cyber security sector, which has expanded rapidly in recent years.  

Professor Dame Lynn Gladden, executive chair for the EPSRC, said the burgeoning ecosystem is now home to more than 100 businesses and supports nearly 3,000 jobs. The sector has also attracted several major tech industry stakeholders, including Nvidia and Microsoft.  

“For the past 13 years the Centre for Secure Information Technologies has played a key role in helping the UK to respond to emerging cyber security threats,” she said. “It is also at the heart of a thriving innovation ecosystem in Northern Ireland involving more than 100 companies and providing 2,300 people.” 

“Together with the Cyber-AI hub this additional funding announced today will build on this success to promote further growth and support further cutting-edge research that will benefit us all.” 

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