Oregon Tech Leaders Seek $2.5 Million for 'Center for Cyber Excellence'

The project aims to create a pipeline of skilled workers from Oregon universities to go to work in cyber security, support research in the field and build cyber awareness at businesses.

by Mike Rogoway, Tribune News Service / October 2, 2014

Oregon tech leaders have refined their plans for a new, state-sponsored "Center for Cyber Excellence" and have cut their request for legislative funding by more than half. They're now seeking $2.5 million over two years to hire an executive director and kick off the project.

The project aims to create a pipeline of skilled workers from Oregon universities to go to work in cyber security, support research in the field and build cyber awareness at businesses – and even in elementary and high schools.

"The first year is really spent in developing the guidelines and the expectations for the center," said David Childers, a board member of the Technology Association of Oregon, which is shepherding the plan.

TAO had originally sought $5.3 million in initial funding for the center, but Childers said it ratcheted that back after concluding it made sense to begin more slowly, establishing operations and evaluating work already underway in the state. Backers may still come back and ask for the full sum in two years, he said.

The project's supporters say Oregon employers need cyber expertise and access to current research to protect their businesses from hacking, piracy and online scams. Additionally, they say that businesses specializing in the field need educated workers.

Oregon is home to many companies with particular cyber expertise, or defense contracts that need safeguarding. The roster includes Flir Systems, ID Experts, EID Passport, Kryptiq and Tripwire. Additionally, Mentor Graphics and Intel – working with its McAfee subsidiary – are developing hardware-based technologies to guard against online snooping.

Legislative response has been favorable, according to Childers, who said he hopes the funds will be included in the governor's budget for the upcoming session. He said the project would provide economic benefits that extend beyond the companies already in the field.

"Oregon's economic renaissance is going to be built on the backs of technology," Childers said. "We're going to launch companies because of technology."

©2014 The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.)