COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | ERIC BASU

How San Diego will lead the global cyber security effort

This week, The San Diego Economic Development Corporation is hosting an invitation-only discussion around how this region is poised to become the global center for cyber excellence. I’m honored to be one of those participating, and am doing so because I strongly believe we have some unique competitive advantages to making this happen.

There are several pillars that will be required to create a cyber center of excellence, and we possess all of them in San Diego. First, we have a significant – and yet still underappreciated – level of intellectual and human capital that is developing a rapidly-growing software cluster centered on analytics and big data application. Nowhere else in the country – or world for that matter – do we also see the cadre of government, military, educational, healthcare and technology innovators all working to create solutions that securely and efficiently transmit data wherever and whenever it’s needed to improve the economic well-being of not only specific institutions, but for the benefit of all organizations and individuals here at home as well as globally.

The second pillar is a political champion. We have many elected officials joining our cause to make this area known as a cyber cluster on the city, state and federal levels. The leading candidates from both parties vying to be San Diego’s next Mayor have also publicly acknowledged the importance of expanding our region’s innovation climate for its economic and social benefits.

Engagement of industry is a critical pillar as well. Business partners must work together to build and maintain the ecosystem that allows them to benefit from the talent pool, influx of funding and security solutions that arise from collocation in the center of excellence.

The final pillar of this ecosystem is funding. San Diego does not have nearly the amount of venture capital that Silicon Valley does, which causes us to lose companies and talent to our neighbor to the north. What this region does have, however, is an entrepreneurial spirit that highlights our collective the ability and demonstrated willingness to support initiatives that have the potential to boost their bottom lines and expand their customer bases.

Arguably one of the most unique assets within this area is the U.S. Navy’s Space and Aviation Warfare Center headquarters located just a stone’s throw away from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot near Point Loma. This research and development arm of the sea service is in existence to foster the creation and implementation of advanced technologies for its mission that includes cyber issues. The amount of capital it can invest locally in those who are able and willing to take on this challenge eclipses the level of venture capital and private equity resources that many other cities possess. The ability and willingness of the Navy to also aggressively seek cyber-specific funds from other government agencies and bring them to San Diego is likely the key factor in supporting a cyber center of excellence, as the military service will benefit by having access to a pool of unique talent and innovative cybersecurity technologies that can be used to protect our military systems.

The keystone to this ecosystem is leadership. Such a diverse coalition will not form itself, nor will it maintain focus upon tangible goals without having strong, dynamic and dedicated individuals to guide our continued efforts toward this vision. Success will lead to increased investment in the region that will bring with it additional companies and job growth. We’ll see individuals form entities to join the efforts and other organizations that will move from their current location to San Diego in order to be a part of it. The availability of funding and work will bring the intellectual capital and talent, creating a virtuous circle of growth and innovation.

We as San Diegans have unique advantages to becoming a global center for cyber excellence not just from our technical talent, but by recognizing that it can only be done through a shared collaborative effort that involves stakeholders from every industry, every government entity and every civic organization. We have the capability as well as the connections between all of these entities to create meaningful action plans and solutions. It is my hope and belief that from our discussions this week, we will develop pilot programs that will be the foundation for more expansive and scalable initiatives. We not only have the resources to move forward, but the strong will to do so.

Basu is the CEO of Sentek Global, a provider of government and commercial cybersecurity and information technology solutions. He can be reached at ebasu@sentekglobal.com.

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