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Why we need research in secure ICT ?

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Published on Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Interview with Prof. Björn Ottersten: We hope to have some 100 people involved at SnT in five years.

At the beginning of this year the UL launched its first Interdisciplinary Centre, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT). Professor Björn Ottersten was recruited to the university as Director of the SnT to spearhead the Centre’s development together with Professor Thomas Engel. Learn more about this ambitious project in the interview with Prof. Ottersten.

Prof. Ottersten, you joined us from Sweden to take the position as Director of the SnT. What did you actually do before coming to Luxembourg? I have been professor at the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH), Stockholm since 1991 conducting research and teaching in wireless communications and signal processing. Most recently, I was dean of the school of electrical engineering at KTH. During my career, I have founded and managed two similar centres, wireless@KTH and ACCESS. The commercialisation of research fascinates me and during 1996/97 I was Director of Research at ArrayComm Inc, a start-up in San Jose, California based on my patents.

First of all, what exactly is the SnT and what are the Centre’s main objectives? The Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT) establishes an important instrument for the university to foster interaction and collaboration between our researchers and industry/institutes/government targeting research and education in secure and reliable ICT (information and communications technologies) systems. The University of Luxembourg has identified research and education in this field as a top priority and the SnT is a focused effort representing a significant investment for this university. The overall aim of SnT is to become an internationally leading research facility that, together with external partners, establishes Luxembourg as a European centre of excellence and innovation for secure, reliable, and trustworthy ICT systems and services. Many research challenges in this area require an interdisciplinary research approach, taking not only technical aspects into account but also addressing business, human, and regulatory issues.

Why is this field so important and why in Luxembourg? Several sectors of the regional economy (financial/banking industry, service and content providers, and communication infrastructure suppliers) depend on high competence in security and trust and are willing to support its development in Luxembourg. Luxembourg provides an ideal European “test bed” for projects requiring coordination among several actors (regulators, legislation, industry, etc.). The government supports the university’s commitment to establishing a European centre of excellence and innovation in security and trust.

The SnT is still in its start-up phase. What are your current priorities? Together with Prof. Thomas Engel, vice-director, a strategic plan for SnT has been developed which describes our priorities. Recruitment is of course a top priority in the start-up time. There is already excellent research activity in this area at the university and we are establishing a platform for interaction and collaboration between university researchers and external partners. From this platform research projects can be identified, planned and launched. I am visiting UL research groups and learning about ongoing activities – I encourage interested researchers to contact me.

The SnT has many partner organisations. What can you tell us about this collaboration? Several project proposals have already been submitted to EU’s seventh framework programme together with industrial partners in Luxembourg (SES-ASTRA, HITEC, Telindus, Luxspace, EPT). An Industrial Partnership Programme is also being formed where partners will directly contribute to the Centre’s activities.

Finally, where is the SnT based and how big is your team? There is currently a core team (director, vice-director, administrative assistant) in the offices at campus Kirchberg. A board headed by our Rector is in place as well as a group of participating faculty. SnT is seeking several post doctoral scholars and senior researchers (see www.securityandtrust.lu) to be hired during the year. We have an aggressive expansion plan and hope to have some 100 people involved at SnT in five years.