The University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and the Forge Institute announced Wednesday a collaboration to establish the Consortium for Cyber Innovation (CCI) to develop and align cyber education, and grow applied research capabilities in the state of Arkansas.
“The Consortium for Cyber Innovation is monumental to developing our high-tech workforce and developing new capabilities to prevent, detect and mitigate emerging technology risks to businesses, including our nation’s critical infrastructure,” said Lee Watson, CEO of the Forge Institute. “Both campuses already have outstanding undergraduate and graduate Computer Science programs, cybersecurity resources, and world-class faculty. We’re excited to lend our expertise to this very important endeavor which will help fill the coming 3.4 million job gap.”
Forge Institute, located in Little Rock, develops capabilities to solve broad challenges in emerging technology, cybersecurity and national security. By joining forces with the academic resources of UA Little Rock and UAPB and industry partners like Acxiom, Forge officials say the CCI will create a strategic industry cluster in emerging technologies that will support national defense and enhance Arkansas as a Cyber Defense State.
“We’re extremely excited to build this collaboration with Forge Institute,” said Dr. Brian Berry, vice provost for research and dean of the Graduate School at UA Little Rock. “We view cybersecurity as an important field of study for our students, and the expertise Forge Institute lends offers a real-world perspective that can’t be simulated in the classroom.”
This collaboration expands an existing successful collaboration between UA Little Rock and Forge Institute. For example, students who complete the Forge Institute’s IT/Cyber Fundamentals professional development course can apply to receive three hours of academic credit in UA Little Rock’s recently launched bachelor’s degree program in cybersecurity. This recognition of learning outside of higher education is a bold step towards how colleges and universities can modernize their curricula to meet the needs of today’s students and industry.
Dr. Monsour Mortazavi, vice chancellor for research, innovation and economic development at UAPB, agrees. “Developing the computer science and cybersecurity workforce in the Arkansas Delta is a priority for us. The CCI helps us accomplish this objective by collaborating with excellent partners within the cyber community.”
An immediate goal of the CCI is to create a powerhouse Strategic Initiative Office (SIO) to source funded grant resources for building applied learning and research experiences for students, faculty and industry, developing new innovation opportunities, and facilitating technology transfer capabilities at the speed of business. The SIO will allow the consortium to obtain and manage large-scale federal funding for creating a sustainable network of education and research efforts in emerging technology and national defense.
Future research projects will include developing next-generation artificial intelligence capabilities to manage cybersecurity threats to both critical infrastructure and military and national defense networks. Advanced machine learning technologies will increase efficiency and expand near-term industry use of readily-available quantum computing capabilities.
Globally, cybersecurity has become a trillion dollar industry with career opportunities open to thousands of Arkansans. Because of the state’s deep experience with data management, logistics, fintech and other data-driven industries, Arkansas is well positioned to become a rallying point for the nation’s cybersecurity efforts. These opportunities produce good paying jobs for Arkansans.