Students tackle NCSC tech innovation challenge

Posted on 4 March, 2022 by Advance 

Some 50 undergraduates and postgraduates took part in the first ever Innovators Challenge event this week, led by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – a part of GCHQ – for students studying cyber-related degrees certified by the NCSC.

Image courtesy NCSC

The three-day event in Manchester, delivered with innovation company Plexal, saw students form teams to find innovative solutions to cyber security challenges set by Plexal and then pitch them to a panel of industry representatives.

Teams addressed two of the key cyber security challenges facing the UK – securing the supply chain and safe remote working. The top solutions were recognised at the close of the event, for their social value, commercial potential and innovation.

The NCSC Innovators Challenge was launched to offer students on Bachelor and Master degrees certified by the NCSC an opportunity to collaborate with other students, learn from industry professionals and gain hands-on cyber experience to complement their studies.

Chris Ensor, NCSC Deputy Director for Cyber Growth, said: “I’m delighted students have come together to take part in our Innovators Challenge, giving them an invaluable opportunity to learn from industry professionals and put their cyber studies into practice.

"Creating opportunities for young people to work together and apply their skills is vital for inspiring the next generation of cyber talent to innovate and keep the UK safe online.

"We thank the industry mentors for their support with this event and encourage universities offering cyber courses to apply for certification to gain official recognition and access to future opportunities for students.”

Designed by Plexal and the NCSC, who also deliver the NCSC for Startups programme, the challenges were designed to help students understand industry and the government’s cyber security challenges and priorities.

Students from universities across the UK took part in the residential event, working with mentors from the private sector and government to develop ideas. They then pitched them to a panel.

Saj Huq, Director of innovation at Plexal, said: “The NCSC is known around the world for setting standards, educating the public about cyber and making the internet safer.

“What is most exciting about both NCSC For Startups and the NCSC Innovators Challenge is that government experts on the frontline of cyber security are actively collaborating with industry, startups and the future talent pipeline.

“With cyber threats becoming more sophisticated, frequent and harmful, we need to invest heavily in the pipeline of skilled cyber talent, while also making sure that what young people  learn is grounded in reality. Plexal is excited to work with the NCSC to inspire students to join the sector and prepare them for real-world challenges.”

The NCSC is committed to developing UK cyber skills growth to address the current skills gap. Initiatives such as the Innovators Challenge are designed to give students real-world insights, preparing them for future careers.

According to the UK government National Cyber Strategy, the cyber security sector workforce has grown by around 50% in the last four years, with demand for skills often outstripping supply.

The NCSC’s degree certification scheme recognises courses at UK universities that offer a high standard of cyber security education, helping to set a high standard across the country.

Offering a course with NCSC certification helps students make informed decisions about the range of courses on offer and can give employers confidence that graduates have valued skills.

More information about the initiative can be found on the
NCSC website