Lancaster University and IN4 Group partnership set to make the region UK’s cyber skills capital

Lancaster University and IN4 Group have signed a new partnership, which will attract major investment into North West towns to develop the best tech talent from across every community in the region.

It will see the establishment of 24 CyberFirst Gold Hubs, one in each of the North West Local Authority areas, which aims to give every single young person access to world-class technology skills and employment.

Lancaster University – which is ranked top 15 or above in all major UK league tables – is one of only a handful of universities in the UK whose education, research and training is recognised by the National Cyber Security Centre. The University is further building on its strong track record in cyber security with a recently announced  £19m investment into Security and Protection Science – an initiative that is in the process of recruiting 33 new cross-disciplinary academics, plus 15 professors in practice roles as well as 10 support staff.

As the brainchild of IN4 Group CEO, Mo Isap, Lancashire will see the creation of the first CyberFirst Gold Hubs in Blackburn and Preston as the blueprint rolls out across the region and beyond.

CyberFirst Gold Hubs established with Cyberfirst Gold recognised Colleges and Sixth Forms will attract inward investment to deliver STEM educational enrichment and develop a technology-embedded integrated curriculum. They will work with education and corporate partners, including IBM, Northrop Grumman, KPMG UK, QinetiQ, and BT, to deliver skills to young people and drive employment through best-in-class degree apprenticeships and degree courses.

“We need to urgently level the playing field to reach every single young person in every single conurbation, in every single town, in every single ward, and every single street to give them this opportunity to learn better with tech and have a clear pathway to achieving a career in tech,” said Mo Isap.

“This pioneering strategic partnership between IN4 Group and Lancaster University is a significant step towards building a thriving pipeline of tech talent that will help shape the future of the North West Cyber Corridor.”

This follows IN4’s major contract win of the North West contract for CyberFirst, a programme backed by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), part of GCHQ, which was established to encourage a diverse range of young people to pursue careers in the cyber sector. 

In addition to the building of the educational blueprint, the Lancaster University partnership will support the creation of cyber jobs in the region and upskill adults, to further cement Lancashire’s position at the heart of the North West Cyber Corridor.

This will be through the CyberFirst programme’s activities and the upskilling of adult learners through IN4 Group’s Skills City division, which is one of the UK’s largest digital Skills Bootcamps operations.

Professor Andy Schofield, Vice Chancellor at Lancaster University, said: “We welcome this partnership with IN4 and are excited about the opportunities we can bring to young people in Lancashire and the wider region.

“Through this partnership, we aim to share our expertise in all aspects of cyber research, teaching and training with our communities and work to promote the cyber sector as a career choice to a range of people who may not have considered it.”

Sameena Khan, Director of Partnerships and Community at IN4 Group has 23 years of experience working in government organisations relating to cyber and national security. She will be based at Lancaster University to support the establishment of key relationships across the government, academia and industry.

This collaboration builds on the previous success of the CyberFirst North West programme, which achieved £1.57 million of social impact in 2023, establishing 13 local schools and colleges from Lancashire and Greater Manchester as among the best in the UK for cyber and STEM education.

There was an investment of over £600,000 and a contribution of more than 2,200 hours dedicated to the CyberFirst North West programme from across public and private sectors, further boosting cyber education in the North West Cyber Corridor.