x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

EADS partnership with KUSTAR targets cyber security skills gap

The European aerospace and defence giant, has joined up with the Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research to provide cyber security training in the UAE.

EADS, the European aerospace and defence giant, has joined up with the Khalifa University of Science, Technology and Research (KUSTAR) to provide cyber security training in the UAE. The alliance between EADS, the technical institute, and a local company, C4 Advanced Solutions (C4AS), will help fill a skills gap in the growing area of cyber security, which involves the protection of computer internet accounts and files from intrusion by unauthorised users.

The deal also continues the trend of foreign aerospace and defence companies creating partnerships with local academic groups to help the UAE fulfil its goals of creating a knowledge-based workforce, while also increasing awareness of foreign groups' locally, and improving the likelihood of winning defence contracts. "We want to be seen as a net contributor to the local community, both in terms of employment of Emirati citizens and of knowledge transfer to the country," said Andy Warnes, the regional head of business development at EADS Defence and Communications Systems.

"It is therefore important to us that we are involved with world-class universities in the UAE." The wide-ranging partnership will lead to the partners creating a "Cyber Operations Centre of Excellence" with a particular focus on the protection of critical national infrastructure, such as power stations and oil and gas facilities, and also "critical information infrastructure", such as government servers and IT networks. No opening date for the centre was given.

The alliance will provide summer internship opportunities for up to 15 KUSTAR students in various European EADS defence and security facilities. In addition, EADS said it would sponsor postgraduate studies for some students in particular fields, create alliances with other leading universities, and sponsor an international lecture programme on innovation in cyber operations. EADS and C4AS will participate in the academic venture through a joint venture the two companies have created called Emiraje Systems. Cyber-security is a new discipline in the UAE. In 2007, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) created a UAE Computer Emergency Response Team (aeCERT). Meanwhile, in March this year, the Abu Dhabi Police inaugurated its first batch of cyber-crime officers, which included 15 recruits recently graduated from a Zayed University Master of Science course specialising in cyber security. KUSTAR, established in 2007, is one of several new universities that have been set up to help the Emirates address a shortage of technical skills. Under Abu Dhabi's 2030 development plan, the economy is to be transformed and new energy and knowledge-intensive industries will be cultivated. But these new industries, ranging from clean energy to semiconductors and aerospace, will require thousands of engineers and technicians whom the emirate does not now have.

"This is really a very serious issue that our leadership is facing," Major Gen Khalid al Buainnain, the former Commander of the UAE Air Force and Air Defence, and the current chairman of Baynuna Group, a holding company based in Abu Dhabi involved with the defence industry, said this month. "You have an industrial revolution happening in Abu Dhabi. But, unfortunately, in the past, our education system did not support the diversification of different skills." EADS joins other aerospace and defence companies that have sought to form partnerships with local academic institutions to help the country address the skills shortage. Raytheon, for example, is a partner with the Higher Colleges of Technology in the creation of an Arab Web platform for Maths Moves U, an educational tool for middle-school students. Dassault, the French aerospace company, also recently joined KUSTAR to enable the French company's engineering design software, such as three-dimensional and product-life-cycle management tools, to be used in classrooms. Other local educational ventures are under development with major US defence and aerospace contractors such as Boeing and Northrop Grumman. igale@thenational.ae