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Tuesday, Mar 21, 2023

Our Newest Cluster Must Be Ready to Take On All Challengers

It’s official. Cybersecurity is the region’s newest industry cluster.

San Diego civic leaders inaugurated the Cybersecurity Center of Excellence recently in ceremonies in La Jolla.

Holly Smithson will lead the public-private partnership as CEO. Smithson — known to many for her previous role leading CleanTECH San Diego and currently an executive with Sentek Global Inc. — said the new center of excellence intends to project San Diego’s leadership globally.

Cybersecurity is a “complex and daunting frontier,” Smithson said. The news is filled with credit-card data breaches and foreigners burrowing into U.S. computers to steal military and commercial secrets. Smithson said she has come to realize the need for security in power grids, and in robotic systems that control factory automation or critical infrastructure.

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On the positive side, there’s plenty of work. Indeed, cybersecurity is a place where defense contractors see potential business in a world of shrinking Pentagon budgets.

The region certainly has people who know the subject. San Diego is home to private companies such as antivirus software maker ESET North America; university-based computer experts; and the U.S. Navy’s information technology command, Spawar. The Navy alone has 3,095 cyber professionals at Spawar, short for the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command.

Today San Diego County has more than 100 cyber-related companies and 8,000 cyber-related jobs. The Cybersecurity Center of Excellence will measure the growth of the cluster against those benchmarks, Smithson said.

The number of local cybersecurity jobs is expected to grow 13 percent this year, compared with 2.2 percent for all jobs, according to information compiled by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. The EDC’s new analysis of the cybersecurity cluster says it contributes $1.5 billion to the region’s economy annually. That is about the same as three Super Bowls coming to San Diego.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer, several congressional representatives and other dignitaries announced both the study and the new center of excellence on March 20.

• • •

Where Culture and Chipsets Collide: High Tech Night @ the Opera brought together more than 200 people — including students from three local business schools — on March 14 for networking at The US Grant hotel and the San Diego Opera’s performance of “A Masked Ball.” As it turned out, the performance of Verdi was one of the opera’s last. Honorary chairs for the event were Sheryl and Harvey White, as well as Gillian and Tony Thornley. Both men were early leaders of Qualcomm Inc.

The links between the arts and engineering are many. White has long been an advocate for mixing the arts and engineering in a concept is called Steam, short for science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics.

And this seems to be an appropriate spot to repeat what I said here last week. People young and old will delve into the connections between art and science during the first SteamConnect Conference on March 28 at the Irwin M. Jacobs Qualcomm Hall at Qualcomm headquarters, 5775 Morehouse Drive. Students are welcome. More information is available at steamconnect.org.

One memorable image of the opera was mezzo soprano Stephanie Blythe’s portrayal of Madame Arvidson, the cave-dweller who can see into the future, and her followers holding candles, clustered on a darkened stage. The thought occurred to me as I sat there in the Civic Theatre: What if Madame Arvidson was there in her tattered gray dress, picking stocks? That would be a problem that would have the regulators tearing their hair out.

Send San Diego technology news to bradg@sdbj.com.


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