Queen’s University in £400,000 bid to reduce cyber-attack threats to national grid

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have received funding of almost £400,000 to reduce cyber-attack threats to the UK’s national grid.

The project aims to identify vulnerabilities within the national grid as wind and solar generated electricity become more widely used. The grid operates over the telecoms network making it vulnerable to cyber-attack.

The research is one of four new projects which make up a £2.5million initiative, co-funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and UK’s National Cyber Security Programme, which will focus on the cyber-security of the UK’s critical infrastructure including manufacturing plants, power stations, the electricity grid, and the rail network.

Professor Sakir Sezer, from the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT) at Queen’s, said: “Presently, Ireland frequently operates with over 50 per cent of electricity supplied by wind generation.  Operating the system with such high levels of renewable generation is a challenge, and requires complex wide area monitoring and control. 

“Should the telecoms systems that support the control system be compromised, the impact of the resultant loss of electricity supply would have far-reaching consequences for society.  This would involve loss of consumer supply, supply to hospitals, industry, and would even affect the gas, water and sewage networks.

“The researchers will demonstrate assured and improved operational decision making and lay the groundwork for a new, cyber-threat resilient, control architecture for the grid.” 

The Research Institute in Trustworthy Industrial Control Systems (RITICS), based at Imperial College London, is co-ordinating the overall research with projects at Queen’s, the University of Birmingham, City University London and Lancaster University.

The research teams will work with industry partners to understand and analyse the risks from cyber-attack, examine how risk is communicated to business and provide effective interventions to counter the risk. Metrics and software tools will be produced so that non-technical decision makers can assess cyber-security in the context of their business.

Professor Chris Hankin, from the RITICS at Imperial College London, said, “Where control systems are linked to the internet we need to understand how failures could cascade across the system. We will be looking at new ways of repairing damage to systems if an attack happens.

“We need to address how to approach network maintenance for industrial control systems, particularly as most systems operate on a 24/7 basis. So we will be looking at how we can ensure better protection without compromising performance.”


Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Queen’s Communications Office on or 02890973087.

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Queen’s scores hat-trick at regional 2014 KTP awards

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between Queen’s University Belfast and Hughes Insurance has been named as the NI Regional Winner in this year’s KTP Awards, held last night (Thurs, 25 Sept) in The Merchant Hotel.

Queen’s is the UK’s leading institution for KTPs, working with businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the University.

Speaking about the award, Hughes’ Chief Executive, Gareth Brady, said: "Hughes Insurance has been working closely with Jim McCann at Queen’s for the last three years to develop new ways to improve our customer contact activities. The KTP was hugely successful for us, embedding new technology and expertise in our business, and contributing to a 4.5 per cent increase in customer retention figures.”

Queen’s also saw Professor Su Taylor, from its School of Planning, Architecture and Civil Engineering, named as the UKs Academic Ambassador for KTP.

This Award is made in recognition of the outstanding contribution made to KTP by a member of academic staff and the role they have had in influencing the uptake of KTP throughout their institution. Professor Taylor has been involved in eleven Partnerships with local pre-cast concrete companies and has published 52 academic papers on her work.

A KTP Associate with Queen’s was also awarded the title of Business Leader of Tomorrow for his work on a Partnership with McFarland Associates Ltd in Belfast.

Brian McFarland, Managing Director of the company, said: “Paul Callender’s ability to network at an extremely high level internationally, find new markets and apply novel technologies, is what has made this KTP so successful. He has consistently gone beyond the original goals for the project and satisfied the requirements of both the company and academic partners. At the end of his KTP he will be offered a senior role within the company.”

KTP is a driving force in local wealth and job creation, with KTP businesses seeing an increase in pre-tax profits of around £270,000 per year. On average, each project creates three extra jobs, secures training for an additional 14 staff members, and invests an additional £166,000 in plant and machinery. Northern Ireland currently has 8 per cent of the UKs KTPs.

Recognising the success of Queen’s in this year’s awards, Dr Mary Flynn, Head of KTP and Business Networks at Queen’s, added: “As the UK’s leading KTP university, Queen’s has helped more than 350 companies improve their products and services through knowledge transfer. We are currently working with 40 companies across all sectors, ranging from multi-nationals to very small firms, but we want to see more businesses cross our threshold.

“I am delighted to see so many of our Partnerships being recognised for their hard work and commitment. Queen’s is where business begins and it is now, more than ever, that businesses need to think of new ways to stay ahead of the competition. Our KTPs at Queen’s enable them to do that by giving unrivalled access to the world-class research and technology available here.”

Media inquiries to Communications Office. Tel: 028 9097 3091 or email

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Six Queen’s University students named ‘brightest and most innovative in the world’

Six students from Queen’s University Belfast have won an international award for being the brightest and most innovative in the world.

The students, who were this week announced as winners in The Undergraduate Awards, were selected from nearly 5000 submissions from over 200 universities worldwide.

The Undergraduate Awards, which are now in their fourth year, aim to give recognition to the brightest and most innovative undergraduate students in the world, and those who are leading creative thinkers, problem solvers and future leaders.

  • Ciarán Quinn, from Armagh, won the award in the Historical Studies Category for his paper entitled How did the Irish Free State’s efforts to regulate sexuality (and its motivations for doing so) compare with trends elsewhere in interwar Europe?
  • James Pow, from Lisburn, won the award in the International Relations & Politics Category for his paper entitled Still Rising: The Career Politician in the British House of Commons, the Cabinet and the Shadow Cabinet.
  • Tracy O'Connor, from Glengormley, won the award in the Language and Linguistics Category for her paper entitled To What Extent can the Poetry of Borja da Costa be Seen as Promoting the Idea of a Common National Identity?
  • Maran Lowry, from Derry, won the award in the Life Sciences Category for his paper entitled Assessing the Escapement Success of Migrating European Silver Eel (Anguilla anguilla L.) from Lough Neagh Using Acoustic Telemetry to Corroborate a Traditional Mark/Recapture Method.
  • Aaron Reid, from Lurgan, won the award in the Mathematics & Physics Category for his paper entitled Solar Vortices.
  • Grace McKenna, from Magherafelt, won the Undergraduate Award in the Medical Sciences Category for her paper entitled Identification of Tumour Suppressor Genes whose loss mediates sensitivity to conventional chemotherapy and targeted therapeutics.

As well as these winners, 13 students from Queen’s were Highly Commended across eight of the categories.

David Jones, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and Students at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “I would like to congratulate all of our students on their success at this year’s Undergraduate Awards. We, at Queen’s pride ourselves on the world-leading education on offer here and the success of our students in these prestigious and internationally competitive awards is testimony to that. A degree at Queen’s is about much more than an education, it is about the student experience and being afforded a lifetime or opportunity.”

Louise Hodgson, Executive Director of the Undergraduate Awards, said: “The Undergraduate Awards is the only pan-discipline academic awards programme in the world. The Awards recognise the best and brightest students and brings them together to encourage inter-disciplinary cooperation that transcends borders, advances scholarship, and promotes new academic thinking. I wholeheartedly congratulate all of the winners.”

The winners are invited to attend The Undergraduate Awards Global Summit, which is taking place in Dublin, Ireland from November 19th-21st.

Media inquiries to Claire O'Callaghan Queen’s Communications Office, or 028 9097 3091.

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