TU launches cyber institute with projected $75M investment

The University of Tulsa today announced the formation of the new Oklahoma Cyber Innovation Institute to undertake groundbreaking cyber research and identify, test and commercially deploy new cyber solutions. The institute will build on the university’s educational foundation in cybersecurity to address cyber workforce development issues.

“According to Cybersecurity Ventures, the global cost of cybercrime is set to grow from $3 trillion in 2015 to $10.5 trillion by 2025. Last year, more than 700,000 jobs in this field went unfilled,” said TU Vice President for Research and Economic Development Rose Gamble. “The Oklahoma Cyber Innovation Institute will capitalize on decades of academic excellence at TU and expand research opportunities to include the expertise needed to put the findings into market.”

The growing significance of cybercrime on the national and state economies as well as the deficit of cybersecurity workforce fuel the launch of the Oklahoma Cyber Innovation Institute. According to the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, 33% of home computers are infected with malicious software, 47% of American adults have had their personal information exposed by cyber criminals and 44% of millennials fall victim to cybercrime. Cybersecurity Ventures reported growth in cybersecurity job vacancies from 1 million openings in 2013 to 3.5 million in 2023.

TU establishes the Oklahoma Cyber Innovation Institute with an initial $24 million investment to attract top-notch cyber talent; implement workforce development pipelines involving constituencies from across the state; construct and/or renovate key facilities; launch innovative research and commercialization programs; and scale up the necessary intellectual property development, tech transfer and commercialization infrastructure in Oklahoma. Seed funding includes $12 million from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) with matching funds from the George Kaiser Family Foundation.

OCII anticipates more than $50 million in additional funding over five years from a variety of public and private sources to support the critical challenges addressed through their faculty, staff and student researchers solving real-world issues.

“We are looking for corporate and public sector partners who want access to the best minds in the business,” said TU President Brad R. Carson. “Opportunities for sponsored cyber research, talent pipeline partnerships, facility development and/or entrepreneurial ecosystem support are all crucial.”

TU was recently ranked in the top 25 schools for cybersecurity by U.S. News and World report, tied with institutions like Harvard University. The new institute will attract world-class scientists and engineers to work alongside TU’s renowned cyber faculty in the areas of digital transformation, critical infrastructure protection, autonomous systems and organizational security.

“Continued research and development in the cybersecurity sector is critical for reinforcing vulnerabilities in businesses and in our national defense,” said U.S. Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK), who recently visited TU’s College of Engineering & Computer Science to hear from faculty and students on current research. “TU has already demonstrated their commitment to produce elite talent to fill incredibly important jobs in Tulsa and across the country for this growing industry. This institute will attract and retain even more cybersecurity experts to Tulsa, making our community a world-class center for cybersecurity solutions.”

For more than two decades, The University of Tulsa’s elite Cyber Corps program has led the way in training the experts who defend businesses and individuals in the United States from hackers, rogue states and serious national security threats. TU has Centers of Academic Excellence designations in Research and in Cyber Defense by the National Security Agency. TU has held CAE designation since 2000 and was one of the first 14 institutions awarded this distinction. Since 2008, the campus has been home to an elite National Computer Forensics Institute lab, a federally funded center dedicated to training law enforcement in cybercrime investigations.

“TU has built one of the nation’s most decorated academic centers for computer science education and research, sending hundreds of graduates to work in critical posts within the federal government and major corporations,” said Professor Tyler Moore, chair of TU’s School of Cyber Studies. “Daily news feeds are filled with tales of data breaches and ransomware. From old school power plants to new developments in cryptocurrency and autonomous vehicles, there is an ever-increasing demand for highly skilled cybersecurity experts, which this new institute will be prepared to address.”

Three years ago, TU partnered with the George Kaiser Family Foundation and Tulsa Innovation Labs to create a doctoral student initiative focused exclusively on immediate industrial applications in cyber known as Cyber Fellows. Then, in 2021, TU launched the School of Cyber Studies to serve as an umbrella for the university’s growing cyber degree programs and to foster collaboration between multidisciplinary experts from science, business, law, policy and ethics. Professional certificates in cyber to advance the careers of workers interested in upskilling or reskilling are anticipated in the coming months as part of the Oklahoma Cyber Innovation Institute.

“The George Kaiser Family Foundation has worked closely with Tulsa Innovation Labs to identify industry sectors that offer Tulsa the greatest opportunity for economic growth and the creation of accessible, high quality jobs for our community. Because of The University of Tulsa’s strength in cybersecurity, this industry is an area where Tulsa can not only grow but lead. The creation of OCII is a logical next step in solidifying Tulsa’s leadership in the cybersecurity sector,” said Ken Levit, the foundation’s executive director. “To be globally competitive in an industry like cyber, it is critical that public and private actors come together to research, develop and commercialize cutting-edge technologies. The University of Tulsa has convened stakeholders in federal and state government, industry and philanthropy to position the institute as a force for Tulsa’s economic growth well into the future.”

Tulsa Innovation Labs, an organization focused on tech-led economic development in the city, developed a city-wide strategy for inclusive, tech-led growth in Tulsa. The continued growth of Tulsa’s cyber ecosystem is central to the strategy, deemed Tulsa’s Tech Niche, which is poised to create or place up to 10,000 tech-related jobs and bring more than $1 billion in additional public and private capital to the community.

“Tulsa is well positioned to compete at national and even international scale in cyber,” said Jennifer Hankins, managing director for Tulsa Innovation Labs. “The collaboration between academia, a dedicated philanthropic sector and the engagement of large corporate leaders in energy, finance, aerospace and other sectors make Tulsa ripe for technological and commercial innovation. The Oklahoma Cyber Innovation Institute will be the centerpiece in a regional vision to make Tulsa and Oklahoma a national hub for cyber.”

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