DETROIT (AP) – University of Detroit Mercy received a $1.12-million grant from the United States Department of Defense (DoD) to establish the Metro-Detroit Regional Vehicle Cybersecurity Institute, a regional-based cybersecurity consortium.

Credit: University of Detroit Mercy

Led by Detroit Mercy, the consortium consists of multiple academic institutions in southeast Michigan and includes University of Arizona as a research partner. This consortium will enhance the cybersecurity engineering workforce through an applied curriculum developed in consultation with industry partners. It also supports upskilling and reskilling for vehicle cybersecurity by prioritizing underrepresented populations, military personnel, and veterans. Instruction will begin this fall.

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The grant is awarded through Griffiss Institute’s Virtual Institutes for Cyber and Electromagnetic Spectrum Research and Employ (VICEROY) program, which establishes cyber institutes at higher learning institutions with the purpose of critical cyber operational skill development for future military and civilian leaders.

The Metro-Detroit Regional Vehicle Cybersecurity Institute initially includes Detroit Mercy, pipeline institutions Washtenaw Community College, Oakland Community College, and Macomb Community College, and University of Arizona, which will provide research support to the consortium through its research institute that was established in 2014.

University of Michigan and Henry Ford College will join the consortium during the 2023-24 academic year.

Paul Spadafora, Director of Professional Engineering Programs for Detroit Mercy’s College of Engineering & Science, said it’s important to establish the consortium because cybersecurity is a growing threat.

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“Without an increase to the workforce now, the cybersecurity risk to DoD and commercial ground vehicles will keep falling further behind threats from actors in multi-domain contested environments,” said Spadafora, who is a co-principal investigator for the consortium, along with the College of Engineering & Science Dean Katherine Snyder.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the employment of cybersecurity engineers will grow 31% between 2019-29.

The curriculum for the consortium will be developed with the workforce in mind. It includes associate, undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degrees, stackable graduate certificates, hands-on laboratory training, and cybersecurity immersion camps for high school students.

Kevin Tierney, vice president of Global Cybersecurity at General Motors and chairman of the Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center, sees the automotive industry’s shortage of cybersecurity personnel firsthand.

“We envision that the Metro-Detroit Regional Vehicle Cybersecurity Institute will lead in the education of our current and future company employees, expand the competency of our workforce to design and protect secure physical cyber systems, including those in electric and autonomous vehicles,” Tierney said.

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