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3 keys to cybersecurity R&D success in Flanders

Every 40 seconds, a company comes under cyberattack. The need for people, businesses, governments and financial institutions to protect their data is not just on the rise, it’s pressing. All these stakeholders are relying on fintech and cybersecurity players to develop sophisticated security software and methods – and they want it fast.

How Flanders provides access to knowledge, talent and support for R&D success in cybersecurity.

Access to knowledge, talent and support are some of the main hurdles to achieving R&D success in this domain. However, more and more tech firms are striking the right balance in Flanders, Belgium’s northern region. Here’s a look behind the scenes, as featured in a LinkedIn Pulse post published by Wim Sohier, Science & Technology Counselor for Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) in San Francisco.

No.1 – Accessing knowledge

Cybersecurity is key to a thriving and safe digital society, but it also works the other way around. After all, a strongly interconnected digital ecosystem — in which all facets of ICT knowhow and R&D come together — is the best place for your innovative idea to become a reality. In Flanders, which is part of Europe’s 6th-most digital society (DESI 2017), your business can become part of such an R&D landscape in no time.

The region’s best-known driver for digital innovation is imec, one of Flanders’ 4 strategic research centers. Its research, which is easily accessible for private-public collaborations, covers a wide range of domains relevant to IT security, such as IoT, big data, wireless communication, CMOS development and scaling, data processing and encryption, and more.

But imec is only one of many innovation flagships that have contributed to Flanders’ solid reputation in some of the most advanced digital niches. To give just two additional examples: pioneers such as Robert Cailliau – one of the co-inventors of the internet – and Dries Buytaert – founder of Drupal – have gained celebrity status in ICT entourages around the world.

No.2 – Transcending sectoral boundaries

From finance to manufacturing and automotive, more and more industries are riding the wave of the Internet of Things, and they all need to safeguard their digital endeavors. As a result, your cybersecurity business will want to tap into a pool of cross-sectoral expertise in order to innovate in line with real industry needs. Flanders has you covered!

Both the region and its capital, Brussels, are home to numerous international organizations. Think of the NATO and EU headquarters, and financial institutes such as SWIFT, Euroclear, Europay, EPS and ETA. To protect their highly sensitive data, these organizations rely on local ICT players, which gives rise to a pool of young and established companies operating at the cutting edge of fintech and cybersecurity. Just two examples: GuardSquare is conquering the market for mobile app protection, while network security firm Ubizen has become a vital part of Verizon, the biggest wireless telecommunications provider in the US.

Various major cluster organizations also call Flanders home, and can easily connect your cybersecurity business with research centers, industry peers, etc. Two examples include:

  • LSEC, an internationally renowned information security cluster founded by Leuven University (Flanders);
  • B-Hive, a European innovation platform for fintech that brings together major banks, insurers and market infrastructure players.

No.3 – Finding the right talent

By 2021, the number of unfilled jobs in cybersecurity and fintech is expected to hit a staggering 3.5 million worldwide, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. This labor crunch will only continue to intensify the war for talent in the sector. To emerge victorious, your company needs to go where the talent is.

Flanders has prepared for this challenge by investing heavily in education relevant to data security, encryption and the like. New experts are being developed non-stop at the region’s 5 universities. This is especially true at KU Leuven (Europe’s #1-most innovative university in the 2017 Reuters ranking), where 15 professors and 150+ researchers are active in cryptology alone. No wonder KU Leuven is the university that gave the world the Rijndael (AES) algorithm, used to secure over 2 billion devices around the globe.

It’s not just KU Leuven that’s taking the cybersecurity stage by storm. VUB in Brussels has recently pioneered an innovative system for enciphering messages exchanged between users of communication services like WhatsApp. As widespread as it is, ‘classic’ encryption isn’t infallible and requires continuous improvement to remain secure. That’s where the researchers of VUB come in. Rather than relying on mathematical algorithms, they found a method to create truly uncrackable algorithmic keys that relies on chaos synchronization.

There’s more where that came from

One thing’s for sure: Flanders makes it its business to play a prominent part in protecting the global digital society being built as we speak. In addition to vast expertise, talent and innovative collaborations, the region also offers access to some of Europe’s most advantageous R&D-related tax benefits and funding options that can help you take your innovative cybersecurity business to new heights.

From 16 to 20 April 2018, you can meet up with and learn from some of the main cybersecurity and fintech innovators, leaders and experts from Flanders at the RSA 2018 Conference in San Francisco. Check out these overview pages about cybersecurity and fintech in Flanders for further insights.

More info

RSA Conference 2018
Reported by
Flanders Investment & Trade
18 April 2018

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