News of the success of the Oxford vaccine is a big boost in the run-up to Christmas. Although it still needs to be signed off by independent regulators, Gloucestershire’s NHS is gearing up to begin the roll-out before the end of the year. With 100m doses on order, and 40m of the Pfizer version, the Financial Times has reported that the UK is well placed for vaccine supplies compared to peer nations.
Now thoughts must turn to Cheltenham’s economic recovery. As always, our enduring connection with the intelligence agencies will be vital. That’s why the Government’s recent £24bn investment in our nation’s defence, the largest since the Cold War, is particularly good news for our town.
This funding will help to support the National Cyber Force. The NCF will work alongside the National Cyber Security Centre – part of GCHQ – to disrupt hostile state activities, terrorist groups and organised criminal networks threatening our national security.
We need this capability more than ever. In July, the NCSC revealed Russian cyber actors, known as APT29, had even been targeting organisations involved in coronavirus vaccine development.
We are responding, and the UK is now in the words of the Director of GCHQ a “world-leading cyber power” capable of taking the fight to adversaries in cyber space, to protect our country and our way of life.
I want to see that technical expertise delivering for our local economy too. That’s why, back in 2014, I first set out my vision for Cheltenham to become a national cyber hub harnessing the finest GCHQ minds to support civilian tech start-ups. Since then, the NCSC’s Government-funded Cyber Accelerator has been set up in Cheltenham. Over 30 start-ups have already been successfully nurtured, creating jobs and attracting millions of pounds of outside investment.
Now, with a further £23m of Government support being rolled out in transport improvements around Arle Court to open up the Cyber Park site, we can begin to look forward to a brighter, hi-tech, generating jobs for the people of Cheltenham.