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Editorial: Cyber center is needed boost

Maryland has taken another step toward its goal of establishing itself as a national focal point of cyber security activity with the announcement of plans to create the National Cyber Center of Excellence for Cyber Security in Montgomery County.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski snared $10 million in federal funds for the project, which will be developed in a partnership between the state and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a non-regulatory agency of the Department of Commerce.

The new facility, which was identified as a goal in a 2010 report by Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration, will mean 23 additional jobs for the state and will center on technology transfer.

In that role, the center will seek to foster collaboration between the public and private sectors with the goal of finding applications in the private sector for cyber security research and development underway in the public sector and in academia.

The state’s colleges and universities, public and private, continue to add cyber security programs at a rapid rate. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Maryland, University College have recently added cyber security degree programs.

The Cyber Center of Excellence announcement is another move in the right direction for Maryland as it seeks ways to improve its success rate in spinning off commercial ventures generating jobs and economic growth from the state’s array of universities and institutions with world-class experts and facilities.

Gov. O’Malley has proposed legislation in the General Assembly under which each of five research universities — the Johns Hopkins University; Morgan State University; the University of Maryland, Baltimore; the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Maryland, College Park — would each contribute $250,000 a year to a fund for tech transfer. There is also a provision in the bill for federal labs to participate.

The new fund would be used to finance expansion and refinement of promising technologies and to underwrite research of emerging technologies. The state’s goal is to grow 40 technologies into businesses every year.

These are the kind of steps Maryland must take to position itself as a leader in the technology-based economy of the future and to compete effectively for the jobs and investment that will drive that economy.

The competition is already fierce and the stakes are already high. The time to act is now.

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