CEO, Ignite Fredericton & CEO, Knowledge Park
Decades of strategic investment set the stage for a potent cyber sector in Atlantic Canada. Here’s how Fredericton, NB, is building on years of momentum.
Cybersecurity impacts nearly every individual, business, and jurisdiction on the planet. The accelerating growth of automation, the deployment of 5G, and the overall digitization of the world economy are developing in parallel with the threat and sophistication of cyber threats.
“Although cybersecurity is often described as a sector, we look at it as an integral component affecting all sectors,” says Larry Shaw, CEO of the economic development agency Ignite and Knowledge Park, a high-tech cluster in Fredericton’s Innovation Corridor. “Cybersecurity begins with the physical capabilities that companies and individuals have to protect their information and goes all the way through to the infrastructure our lives depend on.”
Fredericton, NB, is taking a leading role in this quickly accelerating field.
Decades of academic research and strategic investment have culminated in a veritable cybersecurity hub with a global footprint.
Much of the city’s tech talent is concentrated in Knowledge Park, Atlantic Canada’s largest tech and research park. The 35-acre campus is known for fostering a collaborative environment between industry players. A tightly-knit pool of researchers, businesses, and government leaders are among the city’s greatest strengths: with a population of just 60,000, degrees of separation between stakeholders are fewer than in other major tech hubs.
Building on years of momentum
“Fredericton’s cybersecurity cluster is the result of many years of investment, starting back in 1990 when the University of New Brunswick (UNB) established Canada’s first computer science faculty,” says Shaw.
A strong base of academic research grew into an entrepreneurial hub: in 2011, IBM acquired Q1 Labs, a security software firm started in Fredericton in collaboration with UNB. It was among the largest knowledge-based exits at the time, and it set in motion a flurry of economic activity with academic research and entrepreneurship bolstering one another over the years. Dr. Ali Ghorbani, the Dean of Computer Science at UNB, was named a Canada Research Chair in Cybersecurity in 2016. Two years later, in 2018, Siemens opened a smart grid innovation centre in the city, which has now led to them opening a dedicated cybersecurity centre.
“The combined availability of labour and research attracted and continues to attract global players,” says Shaw. “The foundation was set over a long period, creating significant cybersecurity knowledge and deep capabilities within the region.”
Fredericton welcomes a major cybersecurity infrastructure project
With all this momentum behind it, Fredericton’s cybersecurity sector is set to hit a major milestone with the construction of the Cyber Centre, a $37 million, 135,000-square-foot facility. Advanced security features will allow it to house government and military operations, including government emergency services — lending further credence to the idea that cybersecurity is inextricably linked with the health of critical infrastructure.
The Cyber Centre will function as a cooperative ecosystem for businesses, research, and government. “If we co-locate partners that are open to collaboration, and begin to share information strategically when cyber attacks are happening, we’ll be able to lessen the impact and shorten the cycle of those attacks,” says Shaw.