SINET targets Sydney debut to channel Australia's “hunger” for commercialising security innovation

The impending emergence of security incubator Security Innovation Network (SINET) in the Australian market will tap into what the multinational organisation's founder calls “a definite hunger for cybersecurity innovation” amongst Australian businesses keen to share ideas and build businesses in the fast-expanding global security market.

SINET – whose planned September debut in Sydney as SINET61 reflects SINET’s partnership with CSIRO data-analytics arm Data61 – will complement existing presences in areas like Silicon Valley, London, New York City and Washington DC. The organisation boasts a diverse membership of security specialist companies and individual members dedicated to sharing security best practice and opportunities for commercialisation of new technologies.

Australia's strong pedigree in information security was rapidly coalescing with the support of government initiatives such as the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA), SINET chairman and founder Robert Rodriguez – a former US Secret Service agent who pivoted into security consulting, venture capitalism and network-building – told CSO Australia.

“This is a community of the entrepreneur,” he said, describing SINET as a “superconnector” linking investors, builders, buyers and researchers. “Our emphasis is to advance innovation and provide support to the business of cyber. And the government is going to play a big part here, because there is some low-hanging fruit and opportunities that mean it's going to accelerate very, very quickly.”

NISA committed $30m through 2019/20 to establish the Cyber Security Growth Centre, a planned centre of commercialisation and R&D excellence whose mission will be supported by the presence of organisations such as SINET within Australia. The NISA commitment also includes $26m through 2021/22 to specifically support commercialisation of quantum-computing research, in which Australian teams are recognised world leaders.

Despite broad interest in the dynamic security field, institutional investors often baulked at backing technologies in this space – particularly in Australia, which Rodriguez said is “definitely behind the US and UK in terms of policy, funding, and support for innovators.”

“There is a lot of money here – but historically these are people that invest in commodities, hedge funds, and real estate,” he continued. “They're not really tech experts, let alone cybersecurity, so they're a little hesitant. But when they see the kinds of numbers and opportunities in the market, and the immaturity of the space still, there's hope that we can redirect some of that capital. Even if it's just half a percent, it would be massive.”

Rodriguez had been striking relationships with local industry figures in the runup to the September launch, working with CSIRO’s data-analytics arm Data61 to discuss opportunities for SINET to replicate its overseas success within Australia.

SINET's high-level engagements have facilitated support by government bodies including the US Department of Homeland Security and UK Home Office and GHCQ, and Rodriguez hopes the government's strong showing of support for information-security will drive similar support for SINET61.

Read more: ​End point protection: Why you should expect more

Australia's security industry has been eagerly awaiting the release of the delayed federal cyber security strategy, which Rodriguez believes will further support SINET's cause by reinforcing the role of government agencies in surfacing security innovation from around the country.

“We're here to create a program that will be helpful to the community here, and to instil change and energy and excitement around this very important space,” Rodriguez said. “We want to encourage early adoption, risk taking, and more information sharing than has typically been happening.”

Efforts to kickstart Australia's security industry had broader economic implications than simply trying to bolster a specific sector, Rodriguez said: at some point we've got to quit relying on what we've relied on for so long – the commodities – because it's not always going to be there.”

Western Australia-based resources interest Drake Resources this week reflected that change of investment focus, announcing that it would spend $11m to acquire Israeli human risk governance company Genome Technologies Ltd, whose Predictive Identity Engine analyses employees' individual behavioural traits and generates customised risk profiles for each.

Such technologies will be progressively surfaced through networking and collaboration between investors, industry leaders, and potential users of the technology in and out of government. This is what Rodriguez says SINET61 will facilitate – and he's optimistic about its potential to build new opportunities for Australia's security innovators.

“At the end of the day,” Rodriguez said, “if you don't have a strong economic security environment, with small businesses growing to be large businesses – and drive employment and job creation – it's harmful. Bringing together the entrepreneurs, and connecting them with the investment community, is really important to the growth of any economy.”



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