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Making critical infrastructure more efficient, resilient and economical will be the focus of a new €15 million project.

Critical infrastructure refers to things like transportation and communication networks, airports, energy networks and water utilities. They are vital systems that help ensure that a modern country can function. Cyprus has academic expertise in this field, but has experienced a brain drain over the years, and needs support to help the country translate their know-how into new technologies, businesses and industries of the future.

It was a really positive sign that the scientific evaluators tasked with giving the project the green-light were not fazed by the unfolding political situation.

– Professor Thomas Parisini

Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering

Now, researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Cyprus are collaborating together on a new multi-million euro project. Imperial will provide academic expertise in cyber-security and power and control systems, which are important for running and protecting the industrial processes that underpin critical infrastructures. The Imperial team will also share their wealth of experience in translating intellectual property into new businesses.

This new European Union support for Imperial research into critical infrastructure will be unaffected by the Brexit vote. Imperial researchers are continuing to apply for new EU-backed research projects through Horizon 2020 and other programmes. The UK government has committed to underwriting UK university participation in any EU research projects formed before 2020, even if they continue beyond that date.

The aim is to establish a Research Centre of Excellence in Monitoring, Control and Security of Critical Infrastructures. The intellectual property generated by researchers from the Centre will lead to new businesses and help make the country a regional hub for new businesses in the Mediterranean and the wider Middle East.

Cyprus like the UK and many countries around the world are facing capacity problems, in that the critical infrastructure, which in many cases was built decades ago, needs to be able to evolve to cope with a range of new challenges. For example, a pressing need in the country is to make the water network more advanced, efficient, environmentally friendly and able to reach more communities across the country.

The Imperial researchers and their partners in Cyprus, under the direction of Professor Marios Polycarpou from the University of Cyprus, will focus on improving ways in which these critical infrastructures are monitored, while making them more automated and efficient, and ensuring that they are secure from potential threats, such as cyber-attacks.

Professor Thomas Parisini, from the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, is Imperial’s principal investigator on this initiative. Professor Parisini says getting the green light on this multi-million Euro project is a positive sign that the scientific community will keep working closely together post-Brexit.

Dr Parisini said: “The deadline for submitting the proposal for this project was on the day of the British referendum, so we were naturally very nervous about whether this project would get the go-ahead. It was a really positive sign that the scientific evaluators tasked with giving the project the green-light were not fazed by the unfolding political situation. Politics is one thing, but the situation on the ground is another. Multi-million projects like this show that we will still be working very closely with our European neighbours to make our region stronger, more prosperous and resilient in the future.”

The €15 million project is funded through the Horizon 2020 WIDESPREAD-2016-2017 programme. When in-kind support from the College and co-funding from the Cypriot Government, the University of Cyprus and local and international industries is taken into account the overall total of the project budget rises to over €40 million.

Professor James Stirling, Provost of Imperial College London, added: “This new initiative shows what Imperial does best:  working with partners from around the globe to tackle the biggest challenges facing society. The College is proud of its long-standing links with Cyprus, and we look forward to further reinforcing our ties through this important collaboration.

“As this award shows, our European partners are crucial to the current and future success of Imperial. As we have said previously, political changes will not deter us from thinking and acting internationally, and this award is another timely reminder of the importance of our relationship with our European colleagues. ”

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