CyNam Chairman gives us his 2020 In Review

December 4, 2020

2020 has been an extraordinary year, unprecedented and challenging for everyone in a variety of ways. This time last year, news was starting to emerge of a mysterious virus originating in China – who could have predicted the far-reaching implications of how things would pan out. The initial UK lockdown began on March 23rd and ran until June 1st, a total of 14 weeks. Schools shut, bars, restaurant, gyms and shops were closed and anyone able to do so, worked from home. Empty streets, empty shopping centres, empty bus stops, empty offices. Hospitals at capacity and the UK, along with the rest of the world, plunging into a steep recession. Home-schooling and exam chaos affected children and young adults across the nation, with the ramifications still coming to bear. Coronavirus has been a generational, “black swan” event and it will be years for the full impact to be assessed and comprehended.

But, some positivity has come out of these challenging times. Lockdown has brought communities together and actively demonstrated community spirit going beyond politics (remember Brexit…?). In May, the New Local Government Network think tank reported council leaders saying community cohesion was at an all-time high. Villages, towns and cities turned out daily to clap our phenomenal NHS workers in unison. There have been unbelievable acts of kindness and heroics – notably Capt. Tom Moore, a 99-year old war veteran who raised over £23m for the NHS by completing 100 laps of his garden, but countless others looking out for friends, neighbours and strangers alike. Diversity and inclusion has also been brought to the fore and is now beginning to be actively addressed as a critical business priority.

Ways of working have been revolutionised, with businesses of all sizes having pivot to home-working models, showcasing the opportunity for companies to wholly embrace the rise of a digital workforce. Large enterprises have seen 3-5 year plans to enable virtual working solutions compressed into 3-5 months. The need for robust, secure technology has never been more apparent with the technology and cybersecurity sectors being relatively positive outliers to an otherwise depressed and desolate commercial landscape.

2020 has been an incredibly positive year for CyNam. The engagement and support we have received from the cyber technology community which we serve has been phenomenal and our three headline events have seen our largest ever attendance (the largest of any UK Cyber Cluster). We have learnt how to go digital ourselves through live virtual events, primarily down to our fantastic Operations & Innovation Manager, Clare Bourne who joined CyNam in May. A number of the cyber companies in the area have also continued their growth and successes despite the backdrop, demonstrating both the depth of technical expertise we have locally and what an opportunity exists within the cyber tech sector moving forward. The Golden Valley development continues to gain momentum in building a world-class cyber tech innovation park right on our doorstep and the £5.2m Minster Innovation Exchange secured extra funding to build a town centre workspace for the cyber tech community including a 300-person performance arena.

CyNam’s mission for 2021 remains as the platform for the cyber tech community here in Cheltenham and Gloucestershire, acting as a positive catalyst for growth and prosperity for all. We will be running our three Headline Events as well as several round-table events which we hope you will continue to support and find valuable. Please get in touch with any suggestions or content you are particularly interested in us exploring. We will also be actively supporting the wider Cyber Cluster ecosystem across the UK and have some big plans (all will be revealed!) which will no doubt also take shape over the coming year.

I would like to thank all our 2020 sponsors – most notably our Gold Sponsor, Capita – for your support this year. CyNam is completely self-funded and without your contributions, none of what we do would be possible. We are looking for Industry and Event sponsorship for 2021 and would encourage anyone to make contact if you would like to be an active supporter next year.

Lastly, I would like to thank all of the CyNam Directors who give up their time willingly and without expectation to support the purpose and mission of CyNam. You are all rockstars and it is a genuine privilege.

If 2020 has been a year to forget, let’s make 2021 a year to truly remember. In the meantime, stay safe and please all have a very Happy Christmas.

Chris Dunning-Walton