Roughly 300 years ago, European merchants bent on learning the secrets to making Chinese porcelain got an unlikely boost from a missionary in China who sent back key manufacturing details.
Many historians agree that this was the first high-profile case of industrial espionage.
The desire of businesses, industry leaders, and even whole countries to gain advantages from their rivals by finding out secret information has not changed much since then, even as those efforts have evolved from in-person spying, to intercepting communications, to cyber attacks.
Now, the University of Tennessee has joined a new institute aimed at stopping such disruptions: the Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CyManII), a $111-million, US Department of Energy (DOE)-backed, public-private partnership led by the University of Texas at San Antonio.
“We are pleased to be part of such an important effort, one that supports not only economic growth and stability, but our nation’s security,” said Janis Terpenny, dean of the Tickle College of Engineering and Wayne T. Davis Dean’s Chair at UT. “National institutes such as CyManII provide the infrastructure for bringing the expertise and talents of top researchers and practitioners together to solve the world’s most challenging problems. I am confident that CyManII will be a showcase for what can be accomplished working together!”
Jin will lead efforts from faculty experts in both the Tickle College of Engineering and Haslam College of Business to use their strengths in cybersecurity, supply chain resiliency, automation, and energy efficiency to better secure vital US industries and initiatives.
Advanced manufacturing, which is taking on an increasing role as a key part of America’s economy, is well established as one of UT’s most successful areas of research and expertise, reaching across several colleges at the university, including several collaborations with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and IACMI—The Composites Institute.
The work conducted by CyManII thus holds double importance for UT by both protecting the economy in general while at the same time providing new measures of security for such an important research area.
“Preventing cyber attacks, whether they have the intent to disrupt, steal information, or otherwise take an unearned advantage, is going to be critical to our nation’s economy as we continue to adapt more and more to various forms of advanced manufacturing,” said Jin, who also directs UT’s Institute for a Secure and Sustainable Environment. “We, as a country and as a university, have earned a spot as a leader in this new type of production. It would be tragic if we were unable to protect what we have learned from being disrupted through outside interference.”
Professor of Business Analytics, Pilot Corporation Chair of Excellence, and Head of the Department of Business Analytics and Statistics Mike Galbreth will serve as the point of contact in the Haslam College of Business, helping bring to bear the research and expertise from the college.
“As the economy evolves, so does the nature of the threats to it,” said Galbreth. “Collaborations like this will help make sure we stay ahead of those challenges.”
CyManII is a consortium of 59 proposed member institutions that includes three national labs, 24 universities, four manufacturing institutes, 18 industrial organizations, and 10 nonprofits. CyManII is funded by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office and co-managed with the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response.