‘This is for everyone’ – the message was emblazoned in bright lights around the darkened London 2012 Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony in Stratford.
At the centre of everything, a solitary figure stood up from a cumbersome computer and accepted the adulation of the crowd. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, was celebrated for his gift to the world.
However there is now a risk that we will throw the opportunities presented by the internet away, according to Lydia Ragoonanan, director of the London Office for Rapid Cybersecurity Advancement.
“Cast your mind back to the Olympics in 2012 – a stone’s throw from here they had a spotlight on Tim Berners-Lee for one of the great inventions of the 20th Century,” she told BusinessCloud from LORCA’s Plexal base.
“Think about the opportunity of that digital evolution. What cyber security does is help people to trust the digital environment to do business better and to pursue new knowledge. Without cyber, all those opportunities cannot be realised.
“So many things are becoming digitalised and yet we don’t want to return to a position where people are afraid to use the opportunities that digital enables.”
Plexal is the former media building of the 2012 Olympics which is now an innovation hub housing hundreds of start-ups in the regenerated area of East London.
“Cyber is a high-value job area and an area of high growth creation,” said Ragoonanan. “We want to help build on the legacy of the Olympic Games and build more jobs and opportunities for people that otherwise might not have had them.
“I’m very interested in social opportunities and social challenges – things that can support us to help make society a better place.”
Ragoonanan opened LORCA at the end of June. One of two innovation programmes inspired by the government’s National Cyber Security Strategy – the other is Wayra’s GCHQ-linked facility – it aims to rapidly scale security companies that are already established to maximise their impact.
Backed by £13.5 million from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the centre aims to support 72 companies, grow up to 2,000 jobs and secure £40m in revenue over the next three years. It has nine companies in its first cohort – Ioetec, B-Secur, Cybershield, CyberOwl, Think Cyber Security, Aves NetSec, Trust Elevate, Surevine and ZoneFox – including an authentication technology which recognises a person’s unique heartbeat.
“We have a company that is helping people better identify where security threats are, to focus their attention, and another which is effectively a Facebook for the cyber community,” said Ragoonanan.
“They are all on a scaling journey and their solutions can help large organisations solve challenges they are unable to themselves. We look at the challenges facing industry – such as supply chain risk, a hot topic at the moment – and recruit on that basis.”
LORCA is now looking for a second cohort of cyber innovators, with the deadline for applications Friday 2nd November. Shortlisted organisations will then be invited to meet the selection panel in early December and the programme will commence in early January 2019.
Originally from New Zealand, Ragoonanan says that the male domination of cyber is undeniable but that there is plenty of female talent out there.
“Historically computing has not been a male-dominated industry. It’s not that there aren’t people out there – it’s just that we need different ways of engaging those individuals,” she said.
“The problem is how we approach the market and provide the opportunities. There’s a lot to do and a lot being done to help re-engage women in the industry.”