Exploiting Cyber R&D: Four Core Capabilities

18 January 2017

Every day it feels as if there is another reported Cyber related incident, and the threat just continues to proliferate.  Attackers are becoming more sophisticated, patient and creative, targeting a vast array of domains. Recent and notable victims include Tesco Bank, William Hill and Fancy Bear’s attack on the World Anti-Doping Agency, which stole TUE data of athletes such as Bradley Wiggins and the Williams sisters. Hong Kong’s bitcoin exchange was also hacked last year, resulting in the theft of $70m.

Such is the scale and breadth of Cyber-crime, the demand for prevention is huge: the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) went live last October and the European commission is investing €1.9Bn for Cyber Research and Innovation in the next three years. The journey to keep ahead of the game, particularly in this world of rapid technological advancement, is fully underway.

You simply have to google ‘Cyber Conferences and Expos’ to appreciate the scale of activity taking place within the technology sector to protect the connected world. The threat is not abating and continuous need to research, develop, and deploy innovative technologies is a colossal service industry in itself.

This is easier said than done as R&D can be a costly necessity. Cyber R&D centres, both in the commercial and non-commercial world, are the home to some of the most academic, technical and creative wizardry on the planet. The specialist firms, such as BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, IBM, Microsoft, Hitachi and QinetiQ, all have fully established R&D centres, all retaining close links to government organisations and academia. In partnership, they are creating ground-breaking solutions to identify and prevent cyber threats; recent themes are to secure IoT and the development of Artificial Intelligence and Biometrics capabilities.

The Road to Success

There is much debate as to what makes R&D environments succeed. With our recent track record in hiring leadership positions in R&D, our market insight has led us to believe there are four key success factors, which need to be intrinsically interlinked:

1)  Technical Superiority; the UK’s ability to innovate is world class, though there remains constant demand to hire more cyber related technical wizardry. This is proving challenging however, with uncertainties such as Brexit.  Labs should continue to harness their existing talent and create/sustain environments for creativity.

2)  Commercialisation; the ability to take Cyber patents to market and turn them into reusable assets, whilst securing decent margins, is a real art. Companies can hire great salesmen, but like most modern day technical sales, the emphasis is on insight selling. In this environment the additional challenge of requiring someone with a deep technical grounding makes the difference. Finding this balance between commercial and technical expertise is utopia.

3)  Leadership; directing a commercial entity without suppressing innovation and creativity is probably the hardest skill to overcome. This requires strength in character, control, resilience and prioritisation.

4)  Communication; R&D environments are unequivocally unique to other parts of the business. Communicating the benefits and creating a collaborative environment with internal stakeholders across the wider organisation is a core route to market.

The opportunities to leverage Cyber R&D are immense; the market clearly has the appetite.  As a nation we house some of the most innovative technical talent in the world; the real challenge for companies is to exploit this R&D. Finding the balance between technical aptitude, commercial and leadership expertise is the key to success.

James Blackwood is a consultant in the Cyber and Defence Practice at Berwick Partners. 


Categories: Cyber Security Recruitment

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