The decision was taken on 9th December 2020 that the ECCC (the European Cybersecurity Competence Centre) would be based in Bucharest in Romania. The objective of the centre is to provide a focal point for investment in research, technology and industrial development in the field of cybersecurity. This will involve drawing on a vast skills network comprising academics, industrial partners and the different national agencies of member states.
A call for proposals was launched towards the end of 2019, which was whittled down to the four pilot consortia which would get work underway. One of these pilot consortia was called Sparta. Deployed in 14 countries and awarded funding to the tune of 16 million euros, the project has 44 partners, including 6 in France: CEA, ANSSI, Institut Mines-Télécom, Thales, YesWeHack and Inria. Inria committed to the project its two High Security Laboratories in Nancy and Rennes, in addition to 8 scientific teams specialising in cybersecurity: Celtique, Cidre, Eva, Grace, Indes, Infine, Privatics and Resist.
The man put in charge of Inria’s participation was researcher Thomas Jensen, head of the Celtique team in Rennes. “When the call for proposals was announced, I was Inria’s representative at the ECSO (the European Cyber Security Organisation). The job of this association is to organise public-private partnerships in the field of cybersecurity in Europe. It is responsible for forward planning on the part of the European Commission. Certain parties were discussing the possibility of putting a project together. That was how I came to be in charge of organising Inria’s contribution through Sparta.”
The Internet of Things
Among other things, the network has developed four specific research programmes. Inria has invested in one of these, called HAII-T (High-Assurance Intelligent Infrastructure Toolkit).
Which relates to the Internet of Things. “For this contribution, we have drawn on an existing structure, what are known as Inria Challenges. This internal initiative brings together different teams from the institute to work on a specific theme. It just so happened that we had two Challenges linked to the Internet of Things: SPAI (Security Program Analyses for the IoT), headed up by Tamara Rezk, from the Indes project team; and RIOT, an operating system which has become in some ways the Linux of the Internet of Things. This project is coordinated by Emmanuel Baccelli from the Infine project team. Our work as part of HAII-T has also included cryptographic primitives enabling algorithms to operate on small appliances, in addition to a privacy dimension with contributions from the Privatics project team.”
Designing a road map
But the institute’s involvement hasn't stopped there. “Inria has also been jointly in charge of designing the strategic road map. After consultations held by the different committees within the network, we were made responsible for the final road map, which we will also be in charge of drafting. The purpose of this is to pinpoint to the European Union which research topics we feel to be important, but also to suggest how these themes should be prioritised.”
Thwarted by the Covid hiatus, Sparta is also planning to stage events and workshops to help build the network.
The community is not limited to the 44 partners - we also have associates and friends. We are looking for this network to expand, and we would invite other figures from within cybersecurity to join us.
head of the research team CELTIQUE
C³: a gateway in Rennes
Beaulieu science campus in Rennes is home to a building that will soon be hosting another cybersecurity competence centre: C3. Launched with support from the Brittany administrative region, this hub will bring together scientists from ten different academic institutions, as well as industrial partners involved in R&D projects and students of cybersecurity. Developing a local network in this way could also act as a gateway to projects at a national or European level.
C3 comprises two research institutes (Inria and the CNRS), two universities (Rennes 1 and Rennes 2) and six schools (CentraleSupélec, IMT Atlantique, INSA de Rennes, ENS Rennes, ENSAI and IEP de Rennes). This project is coordinated by researcher Ludovic Mé.