Plan to base National Cyber Force in heart of Lancashire hailed as 'real game-changer.'

The siting of the UK's £5bn National Cyber Force in Lancashire has been hailed as "a real game-changer" for the Red Rose county.

By Brian Ellis
Monday, 4th October 2021, 3:23 pm
The Samlesbury site where the new digital warfare centre will be based.
The Samlesbury site where the new digital warfare centre will be based.

Partners who have worked together to secure Samlesbury as the preferred location for the digital warfare centre say it is a "once in a generation opportunity" to establish Lancashire as a global centre of excellence for cyber security.

A powerful collaboration between the County Council, the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, the Universities of Lancaster and Central Lancashire and also BAE Systems has helped bring the National Cyber Force project to the county.

And now, in a joint statement, the five partners say the announcement by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace at the weekend means they can pursue their vision to become the most data-aware and data-mature economy in the UK.

Work on cyber defence at GCHQ in Cheltenham during a visit by former Chancellor George Osborne.

The new digital warfare centre, which will be capable of launching “offensive” cyber attacks against hostile powers such as Russia, is expected to be part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's keynote speech to the Conservative Conference in Manchester on Wednesday.

The Lancashire partners say the development will bring multi-million investment into the county and place it at the threshold of an unheralded opportunity to emerge as a sector-leading global influence.

The partnership’s vision is to establish Lancashire as an undisputed national leader for cyber and security-related capabilities playing its part in national security and the project brings "unparalleled opportunities to generate positive economic and societal impacts for the region."

LCC leader, Coun Phillippa Williamson, said: “This is a real vote of confidence in Lancashire, which builds on our strengths as a market leader in tech and aerospace. This will not only create high-skilled jobs and significant investment opportunities, but will also establish the county as a global centre of excellence for cyber security.

The new cyber centre could create a huge number of jobs in Lancashire.

“Nearly two centuries ago Lancashire changed the world as the cradle of the industrial revolution. We’re now set to do this again as a hub for the new digital revolution and we can look forward to a bright, ambitious future for generations to come.”

Debbie Francis OBE, chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership said: ''To identify Lancashire as the preferred location for the National Cyber Force is testament to the exemplary capabilities and assets we have in the county, and we are delighted these have been recognised at the highest level. This investment will be a real game-changer for Lancashire and will position us as one which has a thriving cyber and security innovation ecosystem on the global stage."

Charles Woodburn, chief executive of BAE Systems, said: “The decision to base the National Cyber Force in Samlesbury is a real boost to the region, bringing in advanced capabilities and high-level digital skills.

”We’re excited to be working with our long-standing partners in Lancashire sharing our networks with schools, academia, research organisations and supply chains to support the Government’s ambitions to grow its cyber expertise in the region,”

Lancaster University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Schofield said: “From online child exploitation and fraud to national security and defence, cyber security is essential to a safe society and our interdisciplinary research teams have already established a globally-leading presence in this vital field."

UCLan Vice-Chancellor Professor Graham Baldwin said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the region, and I am delighted we are able to bring our academic talent to this collaboration and to provide opportunities for our students that will hopefully lead to successful future careers within Lancashire.

“Our university is passionate about helping to level up the north and this investment brings to life how universities can work together with industry to build the supply chain for the future. These are very exciting times indeed, providing excellent real-world learning opportunities for our students.”