THE proposed new cyber centre in Hereford will provide a secure environment for businesses to carry out hacking scenarios.

Building on the £9m centre is due to start next year at the Enterprise Zone in Rotherwas and will offer secure training and educational facilities.

There will be three elements to the centre- firstly there will be 20 tenant businesses based there, secondly it will provide specialist cybersecurity training for businesses and organisations, and thirdly act as a base for undertaking research in the field of cybersecurity.

The project is being led by the University of Wolverhampton, as cybersecurity is an area of expertise at the university.

Professor Ian Oakes said: "The total project cost is £9m and there will be 20 tenant businesses when full, which will create 185 jobs within the enterprise zone within Hereford.

"It will act as a centre to encourage defence and security businesses to move onto the enterprise zone to be able to access facilities very much at the cutting edge, which they couldn't afford on their own.

"The centre will be bringing those businesses together to develop new products and also conduct research into cybersecurity."

The university has had a presence on the enterprise zone for the last 18 months, delivering a range of support services for businesses and developing new products and processes, in collaboration with Herefordshire Council.

Professor Oakes said: "That has gone really well and we were keen to expand our presence in Hereford."

Skylon Park is the only enterprise zone in the country focused on the defence and security sector, which made it an obvious choice for the cyber centre.

Cybersecurity is worth £17bn nationally and employs 100,000 people.

The training element of the centre will be provided by university staff and external trainers.

Within the building there will be a mix of training rooms including so-called 'dirty labs', where all sorts of hacking scenarios can take place with the complete security that it is not going to damage networks.

Professor Oakes added: "The businesses within that building can develop new products and new processes and services with complete confidence they can't be hacked from the outside."

The university will also have students and staff placed there to carry out research into cybersecurity. Students will be able to work with businesses, preparing them for when they graduate.

He said: "There is a skills gap everywhere. Cybersecurity is a rapidly increasing sector and we need to make sure we have the right number of people with the right number of skills ready to take on these jobs."