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Statewide cybersecurity coalition receives $2 million NSA grant

Cartoon illustration of man and woman pushing together two puzzle pieces of a lock.

A new coalition that will enhance North Carolina’s economy and keep its citizens safe through education, research,  and outreach work in cybersecurity will benefit from a $2 million grant from the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity located within the National Security Agency.

The North Carolina Partnership for Cybersecurity Excellence (NC-PaCE) will bring eight of North Carolina’s universities and community colleges together with public agencies and private-sector businesses to address a growing workforce gap and establish cybersecurity as an economic development tool for the state through education, research, services and outreach. In helping to protect the state’s financial and intellectual property assets from cyber threats, the coalition will help drive the state’s economy by giving North Carolina businesses the skilled workers, knowledge and support that they need to grow.

Cyberseek, an organization that tracks the cybersecurity job market, ranks North Carolina sixth in the country in terms of the number of cybersecurity job openings and puts the state at twice the national average in terms of geographic concentration/location quotient, a measure of the concentration of cybersecurity job demand. Its data lists 17,660 security job openings in the state. Average annual salaries for such roles exceed $100,000.

“The need for cybersecurity-trained professionals is real in North Carolina,” said Laurie Williams, Distinguished University Professor in NC State’s Department of Computer Science and co-director of the coalition. “NC-PaCE will propel the development of cybersecurity expertise necessary to support NC industry and government and to establish cybersecurity as an economic development tool for the state.”

Dr. Laurie Williams
Laurie Williams

NC PaCE will be headquartered in NC State’s Secure Computing Institute (SCI), which was created in 2019 to be a leading center for security education and research. East Carolina University, North Carolina A&T State University, UNC Charlotte, UNC Wilmington and Forsyth, Wake and Pitt community colleges are partnering institutions. This coalition will provide companies and public-sector agencies with a diverse and specialized set of security education, research and services. Their coursework and research curriculum through NC-PaCE will be tailored to the needs of the state to ensure that the trained workforce is ready to address challenges that are impeding North Carolina’s economic growth and entrepreneurial flourishing.

A planned government and industry advisory board includes representatives from across the state’s finance, energy, technology and defense sectors. An NC-PaCE survey of representatives from these and other industries and government found a strong desire for access to research focused on foundational elements of secure system development and access to graduates of both four- and two-year college and university degree programs focused on cybersecurity knowledge and skills.

The Department of Computer Science at NC State has positioned itself as a national leader in the area of cybersecurity through research, education and extension. Along with the creation of SCI, in recent years the department has added undergraduate and master’s tracks and an undergraduate concentration in security and has launched a CyberCorps Scholarships for Service program available to undergraduate and graduate students with help from National Science Foundation funding. Since 2012, the department has led an NSA Science of Security Lablet. These multi-disciplinary labs at a handful of leading U.S. research institutions promote security and privacy science as a recognized field of research and encourage rigorous research methodologies.

“Our vision is to become a national model for cybersecurity education, and economic development through cybersecurity, and to enable businesses and governments to thrive despite the ever-growing aggression and creativity of hackers,” said William Enck, professor of computer science at NC State and the other co-director of NC-PaCE.

Dr. Enck
Will Enck

NC-PaCE will establish a membership model that will allow businesses and government agencies to benefit from the group’s research and expertise. For more information on membership, contact Williams at or 919.513.4151.