EU Should Look To Global Tech Innovation Leaders To Realise Economic Security Ambitions

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EU Should Look To Global Tech Innovation Leaders To Realise Economic Security Ambitions

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After two years of global economic shocks, the EU is fighting back. On 20 June, the European Commission released its proposed ‘European Economic Security Strategy,’ which President Ursula von der Leyen has presented as a response to a “more contested and geopolitical” world marked by a “changing nature of…risks.”

While Brussels’ vision is heavily focused on diversifying supply chains and bolstering tech competitiveness in critical sectors such as semiconductors and clean tech – measures aimed at reducing exposure to the likes of China and Russia – cybersecurity is also incorporated as a key economic security pillar.

Wisely, the EU executive has included partnerships as a core priority of its cybersecurity approach, notably in research and innovation. In this domain, the EU has a range of key allies leading the way that it should learn from and collaborate with as it seeks to develop a safe, thriving economy in the face of evolving technological threats.

Double-edged tech sword

Emerging next-generation technologies have generated both massive opportunities and rises in cybersecurity risks. Indeed, two-thirds of companies have faced ransomware attacks over the past year, while cybercrime-linked financial losses are projected to soar from just under $8.5 trillion last year to an eye-watering $11 trillion in 2023.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) have largely led this double-edged sword, with criminals wielding these advanced technologies to undermine economic security.

For example, AI-powered deepfakes and malware are now commonly used for identity theft, while the spike in the number of connected devices brought about by IoT expansion has created new vulnerabilities for malicious hackers to exploit.

As Tangerine Africa CIO Dr. Samuel Mbonu has written, ‘failure to prioritise cybersecurity can be extremely detrimental to an economy,” an assessment shared by Malaysian tech entrepreneur Ganesh Kumar Bangah, who has rightly noted that "building a resilient digital economy means building robust cybersecurity defenses.” In short, cybersecurity innovation, such as solutions using AI, machine learning and blockchain technologies for real-time cyber-attack and digital transaction protection, has never been more crucial.

Indian government fueling nation-wide innovation

Few countries have recognised this urgency more than India. In recent years, the Indian government’s ‘National Mission of Interdisciplinary Cyber-Physical Systems’ has seen the delivery of 25 technology innovation hubs, some of which are devoted to developing crucial cybersecurity solutions.

For example, the AI4ICPS hub established by the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur is bolstering national technological and skills capacities in AI and machine learning through collaborative research and startup incubators, helping to create the products needed to keep pace with cybercriminals.

Meanwhile, the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur’s C3i innovation hub, launched in 2021, was the country’s first centre dedicated to the development of cybersecurity solutions for anti-drone, blockchain and intrusion detection technologies. Since its inception, C3i has produced 30 new technologies and 54 products, supported 40 startups and 33 R&D projects, trained over 300 people and created over 900 jobs. From real-time cyber threat visualisation to malicious hacker decoy solutions, the centre is making a significant contribution to the enhancement of India’s economic security.

Crucially, India’s public sector leadership in cyber innovation has laid the foundation for a thriving private sector ecosystem. Many international cybersecurity firms, including Trellix, CrowdStrike and Palo Alto Networks, have recognised this government-driven innovation and established strong footprints in India, where they have developed cutting-edge AI, machine learning and IoT-based security solutions.

Switzerland’s private sector-led, localised approach

Beyond India’s state-driven, nationwide approach, Switzerland is proving that much smaller countries can punch well above their weight with private sector-led, localised innovation.

Prilly-based security leader SICPA has made headlines this month with the launch of its “Unlimitrust Campus,” touted as the world’s first innovation hub devoted to the ‘economy of trust.’ A long-time industry leader in hi-tech security inks and anti-smuggling tracing solutions, SICPA’s Campus reflects its “desire to create a safer, more reliable world for everyone through collaboration,” particularly as “the pace of innovation is accelerating,” president Philippe Amon has explained.

Bringing together a wide array of public and private sector innovation players, including SICPA employees, young startups and SMEs, multinationals, leading universities, and the regional authority of Vaud canton, the Unlimitrust Campus is devoted to researching, developing and providing training in the security and authentication technologies needed to protect the digital economy.

According to Jean-Jacques de Dardel, president of the SICPA-created Foundation for the Economy of Trust, new technologies have “created a loss of trust,” which Swiss Federal Council member Guy Parmelin views as “good for neither democracy nor the economy.” Parmelin and Christelle Luisier, President of the State Council of Vaud Canton, hailed the Campus in their addresses at the inauguration.

With this strong public sector support and 35 businesses employing 600 workers already on-site, the Unlimitrust Campus appears set to become a leading force in the Lake Geneva region’s Trust Valley innovation ecosystem.

UK and Israel’s ambitious international collaboration

The UK and Israel, meanwhile, are displaying the potential of international cybersecurity collaboration. In March, the two governments signed an agreement on technology, trade and cybersecurity aimed at ramping up partnerships in these domains, supported by £20 million worth of new innovation funding programmes, including a UK-Israel R&D collaboration scheme.

To bolster their respective cyber threat resilience, the UK and Israel are focusing on skills and startup partnerships, as talent is essential in keeping pace with increasingly sophisticated cybercriminals. For example, the Golden Valley Development in Cheltenham, which is growing into the UK’s cybersecurity innovation core, features prominent Israeli startups and investment as well as collaboration with Tel Aviv to develop the cyber hub in Be’er Sheva.

With Cheltenham now home to the largest privately-owned cybersecurity lab in the world according to its founding company IOActive, and Be’er Sheva receiving a major boost with the launch of the Lenovo Cybersecurity Innovation Center established by Lenovo and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, these two cities seemed primed to become the focal points of this promising UK-Israeli collaboration.

These kinds of innovation-cultivating interventions will hopefully prove informative to the EU as it develops its fledgling economic security strategy.

With effective, cross-sector collaboration the golden thread running through world-leading cybersecurity innovation initiatives, Brussels must take stock and ensure it strikes the right partnerships to protect the bloc’s economy in this hostile environment.

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EU Should Look To Global Tech Innovation Leaders To Realise Economic Security Ambitions

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