Eight UK universities are set to work closely with the UK's cyber intelligence agency after it recognised them as centres of excellence for cybersecurity research.
GCHQ, the UK's signals intelligence organisation, awarded eight UK universities the 'Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research' status on Monday, laying the ground for deeper relationships between the institutions and the government agency.
"These first eight centres will play a vital role in boosting research, expanding our cyber skills base and fostering innovation in the field," Francis Maude, the minister for cybersecurity, said in a statement. "We want to make the UK one of the most secure places in the world to do business, by investing in the best expertise to keep pace with technological change."
The centres will open for business on 1 July 2012 for five years, during which time GCHQ hopes other universities will beef up their cybersecurity capabilities to meet the criteria for being recognised as centres of excellence.
To fulfil the "stringent criteria", each institution must have an active doctoral level student programme in cybersecurity, sustainable external research funding, produce high quality peer-reviewed publications, employ staff who have a track record in cybersecurity research and host a research environment with "a clear focus and a clear future strategy and vision," a GCHQ spokesperson told ZDNet UK on Wednesday.
Each of the institutions will initially get a £50,000 capital investment from GCHQ, more information about "Government and industrial cyber issues" and advice on what areas of cybersecurity research to pursue, the organisation wrote on Monday.
In the future GCHQ plans to sponsor PHD student research projects, establish further centres of excellence and form a research institution in the "science of cyber security".
The awards follow the news in mid-November that GCHQ is set to take a major role in the UK's new cybersecurity strategy.