New cybersecurity center sets goal of reinvigorating Massachusetts' IT industry

The cybersecurity center, sponsored by Mass Insight Global Partnerships, brings together New England stakeholders in government, industry, and academia to promote and fund cybersecurity research and development. It is expected to be fully operational by the first quarter of 2012.

William Guenther, president of Mass Insight Global Partnerships, touted the center as a way to “reinvigorate” the region’s IT industry. He noted that in the 1970s, Silicon Valley and the Route 128 corridor in Massachusetts had the same level of IT investment.

“There were certain things that California did better than we did in terms of regional strategy and how they grew. One of things that has been identified over and over again is an open climate, easy networking, and easier collaboration. That gene we need to infect into out climate here, and this center is one effort to do that”, Guenther said.

Mass Insight is taking a three-phased approach to funding the center. Phase I involves contributions from the center’s 16 founding members to get the center up and running and to promote collaboration among the region’s companies, universities, and governments. Founding members include the Massachusetts state government, RSA, CSC, MITRE, Draper Lab, MIT Lincoln Lab, the University of Massachusetts, and Veracode. Additional universities associated with the center include Boston University, Harvard, and Northeastern.

In the second phase, the center will seek to expand its membership to between 25 and 30 organizations and build a funding stream of more than $1.5 million per year to support a full-time executive director and staff. In phase three, ACSC will go after federal funding for contracts and grants, with the goal of building ACSC into a cybersecurity research and development center with an annual budget of between $20 million and $30 million.

The center will have three focus areas: promoting threat evaluation and data sharing among the region’s stakeholders, building university-industry partnerships through collaboration and funding, and developing a legal and policy framework to enable sharing of sensitive cybersecurity information while maintaining confidentiality.

As part of the launching of the center, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC), a government-funded economic development agency, announced that it contributing $50,000 to ACSC.

“Through the center, we will not only be investing in a long-term economic development opportunity, but we will also be investing to protect the Commonwealth’s state information technology infrastructure against the threats of cyber terrorism,” said state Housing and Economic Development Secretary Greg Bialecki.

The award was made through MTC’s John Adams Innovation Institute, the economic development arm of MTC focused on innovation and industry cluster growth in the state. As part of the award, MTC will become a member of the ACSC Steering Committee and participate in the development and assessment of strategies to formalize the collaboration between industry and the academic community.

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