Paddy Bradley MBE talks about his responsibility in ensuring that the Business Cyber Centre (BCC) is a success. Paddy is the Chief Executive of the Swindon & Wiltshire Local Enterprise Programme (SWLEP) and the BCC, as a programme of the SWLEP, is its newest venture.
“It’s my job to make it succeed”, said Paddy. “If it fails, it’s on me! The Commercial Operations Manager, Tom Marshall, has to get the building up and running, get the tenants in and get a team of people working with him. I’ve got to make sure the BCC strategy is right and that it fits in with the overall LEP organisation. I’ve also got to make sure that it generates cash so that we get an income from it to add to our reserves, which can then be used for other wider economic development activity.
The BCC was created because SWLEP wanted to be an organisation that generated an income for themselves, rather than one that was given money by the government to give to other local organisations. By researching the local economy and growth sectors, understanding what might be of most benefit to the area, it was felt that a cyber centre would address many needs.
The SWLEP team researched different models of cyber centres around the world but were largely inspired by the Be’er Sheva cyber centre in Israel. Paddy explained: “The BCC model is largely based on the way it operates there. Israel is one of the leading nations in the world on cyber security.
“What they have established at Be’er Sheva is a cyber service to businesses in Israel. It encourages the support and development of innovative cyber ideas that can be commercialised. It’s a mix of military technicians and academic researchers, companies, entrepreneurs, start-ups and well-established businesses that are doing their own research: all coming together to generate cyber commercial products and ideas.
“We will have a very similar set-up here in Wiltshire. We’ve got the conditions for the type of cyber centre that doesn’t exist in the rest of this country”.
The plans for the BCC are ambitious. As the only cyber centre of its kind in the UK, it will operate nationally but they plan to take their expertise and knowledge internationally. They have joined up with Global Epic, a network where cyber organisations around the world come together to share ideas.
“We felt that there was a big gap in this country between the brilliant work that GCHQ is doing in protecting the nation and big state assets but not really anything to help the SME community. More than 90% of businesses in this country are SMEs. There is a sizeable cyber risk here because, if those businesses aren’t secure, the onward transmissions from them to their partners, their networks, their contracted partners, could open up all sorts of threats to bigger businesses and organisations. We saw that there is a gap where there isn’t sufficient contact with SMEs.
“We also recognised that we have an amazing resource at Corsham – Defence Digital – which is basically the cyber command for British forces. They do all the cyber work across all of the British military forces, home and abroad. Because it’s the MoD, they have billions of pounds worth of contracts which they have to issue each year for work. Next year, 33% of their contracts have to go to SMEs. If you’re an SME in the cyber business world, you haven’t got a chance of making contact with anybody in Corsham to find out about these contracts or what you can bid for. Our plans are that Defence Digital will use our space and meet up with businesses who potentially, in the future if not immediately, could be contractors.”
The BCC team are currently preparing for a Spring launch, developing contacts with cyber businesses in Swindon and Wiltshire and getting their premises ready. Paddy explained, “We can bring people together and focus on growing their expertise in the area, a place where businesses can meet up to discuss potential contracts with the MoD – a hub for the cyber community in the area.”
The BCC will host the Swindon & Wiltshire Cyber Cluster. “It’s essential to bring a focus to the cyber businesses in Swindon and Wiltshire so they can grow, collaborate, understand where their competition is, and know that they’ve got colleagues in the area who they can call. If we’re successful with this, we’ll get funding to help to promote it, to develop it and to run events, so that’s really good.”
Attracting a more diverse community into cyber roles is key. The industry is currently dominated by white men and Paddy is keen to get more women and ethnic diversity into senior roles. “We’ve got to broaden the appeal of working in the cyber area – training people, destroying some of those nerdy myths around cyber security and getting a diverse range of female and ethnic entrepreneurs on our advisory board.”
From an idea that was planted three years ago, to being at the verge of opening a 21,000 square feet building, Paddy is very excited about 2022. “It’s absolutely amazing. From an idea in 2018/19, to successfully applying for funding in 2020, we’ll be open within 18 months of receiving the money. No other projects that we’ve funded through our local growth fund have had anything like the speed of this development. It will be a brilliant building to have in a great location and will be good for the LEP as a whole and anything association with it.”