In 2008 the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) was chosen to host one of only seven UK Innovation and Knowledge Centres (IKCs). Funded by EPSRC and Technology Strategy Board, IKCs are a key component of the UK's approach to the commercialisation of emerging technologies through creating early stage critical mass in an area of disruptive technology. Through our Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT), leveraging additional support from Invest Northern Ireland, we are achieving this through our world class research, new value and venture creation and entrepreneurial approach in the area of cyber security.

This unique environment encourages collaboration among academics, researchers, engineers, industry and government to accelerate the results of cyber and physical security research through to commercial application.

Traditionally, universities have researchers and PhD students on three-year contracts and they end up leaving when things are getting to a crucial point. At CSIT we have created a new type of contract, based on the hi-tech business model, to employ engineering and business development staff with extensive industry experience.

Based at the Northern Ireland Science Park, in Titanic Quarter, Belfast, this flagship Centre has helped in the attraction of over 100 high-tech Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and start-up companies. These companies employ more than 2,000 people and is evidence of the wider economic benefits to be gained from translating science into wider business and economic opportunity.

The approach adopted within CSIT contrasts with the more conventional way academic research is undertaken. Our starting points tend to be larger “mission-driven” projects involving sizeable teams for which ambitious and challenging end goals have been identified.

Multinational partners include Altera, BAE Systems, Cisco, Infosys, IBM, Intel/McAfee, Roke and Thales, whilst recent spin outs such as Titan IC Systems and MicroSense will seek to emulate the success of earlier spin-out companies including Amphion Semiconductor Ltd. and Audio Processing Technology Ltd. It is fitting that just a few yards away is the dry dock where Titanic was built. The innovative engineering skills of yesterday have given way to those of the future.

Attracting new commercial partners to work with us on these new technologies is fostering international collaboration with leading Institutes in the USA, South Korea, India and Europe. International issues require international solutions and this global innovation hub at CSIT has a unique approach in facilitating speculative blue skies and industrial informed research projects within the same Institute.