Institute for Cyber Security and Digital Innovation at Kreis Düren

First Multi-University Institute of the University of Applied Sciences (FHM) and the University of Gloucestershire (UK)

With funding from the Kreis Düren, the University of Applied Sciences (FHM) and the University of Gloucestershire (Cheltenham and Gloucester, UK) are establishing a joint institute for cyber security and digital innovation in Düren. FHM has a long-standing collaboration with the University of Gloucestershire (UoG), which is one of the UK's leading "cyber security universities" in research and development, also in collaboration with UK government organizations, as well as study and teaching. The Kreis Düren - with its industrial medium-sized structure, international orientation, perspectives of structural change as well as geographical location in the city triangle between Aachen, Cologne and Düsseldorf - is to be developed as a nucleus for applied cyber sciences with a unique approach and international character (multi-university approach). Within the framework of a three-dimensional approach, the business areas of education, research and business support will be particularly pursued.

There are more than 700,000 small and medium-sized enterprises in NRW, including around 12,000 in Kreis Düren, and the trend is continuing to rise. The digital transformation in the economy and society presents companies with new and far-reaching challenges, the core of which lies in the global digitization process. For companies based in Düren, the new institute offers academic training in data privacy and security that is close to their specific needs, an important locational advantage, and also increases the quality and scope of local educational offerings. The Institute will address the following topics: (1) developing a cyber nucleus for structural change in the Rhineland area, (2) developing a business-oriented, regional digital innovation and security concept, (3) improving digital innovation and security skills, (4) reducing the "skills shortage" at all levels, (5) promoting security innovations in SMEs, (6) contributing to regional economic growth.

Identity-forming core of the institute

The complexity in the multi-layered, interconnected and rapid nature of the technological, socio-economic, psychological and explicitly the safety-related factors are of central importance. In order to bring sustainable solutions around, every single expert, the specialist and leader, the managing director and entrepreneur, the trainee and student must grasp the issues and take on the real challenge. But in everyday business life, the "other" problems always take precedence. If this were true to some extent, it would be possible to explain why digitization in SMEs is progressing far too slowly and two-thirds of companies believe they are immune to cyber attacks.

Current FHM studies from NRW and a long-standing collaboration with the leading cyber-related University of Gloucestershire, UK, highlight the problematic situation in the digital transformation and cyber security of North Rhine-Westphalian companies.

In the new global "cyber-digital business", security must be permanently reinvented and implemented. This can best be achieved if knowledge and skills from inside and outside - seen through different eyes - are networked within the framework of a German-British cooperation. To this end, the Institute for Cyber Security and Digital Innovations is to be developed and established as the nucleus for the foundation of a university location Kreis Düren for applied cyber sciences.

Security and digital transformation are among the greatest challenges of the present and future.
The cyber security sector has seen significant growth in recent years, but there is a large gap between supply and demand for qualified and competent specialists and managers. The qualitative challenge is the attractiveness and reputation of the task: How can security, especially cyber security, be ensured in the digitalization of the economy and society?
To this end, the institute aims to deliver the following results:

  • Development of a cyber nucleus for structural change in the Rhenish Revier region.
  • Development of an economy-oriented, regional security concept
  • Improvement of security competencies - reduction of the "shortage of skilled workers" at all levels
  • Promotion of security innovations in SMEs
  • Contribution to regional economic growth


Digitisation Index for SMEs in NRW

The digitization process of companies is individually unique and progresses with different levels of speed. The digitization index for SMEs NRW 2020 measures - on the basis of the companies' self-assessment - the level of digitization on a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 represents the minimum and 10 the maximum. The results from the evaluation can be summarized as follows. The total index of companies in NRW lies at 4.2 of 10. The level of the digitization can therefore be seen as "partially" digitized. The following diagram shows the index values for the individual digitization areas in the three dimensions:

Value creation processes
Human Resources & Innovation
Index value 5.81
Index value 3.13
Index value 3.58
„mostly digitized“
“minimally digitized”
„partially digitized“


The digitization level is in summary much too low. Almost three quarters of all companies are not or only little digitized. Compared with the same study from 2018, there is no progress, rather a standstill. There is no evidence of a general surge in digitization triggered by the pandemic. More digitization and virtual collaboration are only visible in large companies and digital-savvy, industry-affine companies. The selfassessment of IT security (6.65) hardly seems to keep up with reality. Despite the expansion of mobile working in the pandemic, 60 percent of companies have not adapted / expanded their cybersecurity systems for mobile working or have issued corresponding guidelines.

Further information on the study results can be found here: Digitalisation Index NRW 2020

Situation report for business protection in North Rhine-Westphalia

The advancing digitization in all areas of life offers numerous new opportunities for the high-performance and innovative business region North Rhine-Westphalia. However, this development is also associated with increasing dangers and threats. Companies must increasingly expect to become victims of industrial espionage and cyber-attacks by foreign countries, competing companies or criminals operating in the Internet. Therefore, corporate security and the protection of irreplaceable know-how are increasingly becoming the focus of both corporate responsibility and the state's task of economic protection.
The North Rhine-Westphalia Ministry of the Interior - Police and Intelligence Agencies - carries out intensive preventive work toward off industrial espionage and cyber-attacks. Companies should be enabled to recognize possible dangers early on, to avert them in good time and to be able to take necessary protective measures. The aim is the best possible protection against the loss of valuable, mostly existential trade and business secrets.

The "NRW Business Security Situation Report" provides a representative and comprehensive overview of the status quo of business security for SMEs in North Rhine-Westphalia. The situation report has a double effect. On the one hand, it provides important information for optimizing business protection to those responsible for the security partnership. On the other hand, it helps the around 717,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in North Rhine-Westphalia to assess and classify themselves.

Core results of the Economic Protection Status Report 2019

  • The results lead to the following key findings: In 2019 the companies have achieved the highest index values in the dimension of cyber-attack protection with an overall value of 6.37. The access protection stands out particularly positive with a value of 7.18.
  • In terms of personnel oriented protective measures, the companies are set up mediocre with an index value of 5.24. Particularly noteworthy is therefore the area of jurisdiction with an index value of 7.25. Establishing responsibility for security issues seems to be the most likely to be implemented in companies.
  • The physical building protection shows a low index value of 3.82 for companies in NRW. In particular, the external protection of the company premises, with a value of 3.28, indicates “rather few” existing protective measures at the companies.
  • The dimension of organizational protective measures belongs with a value of 3.82 to the two worst evaluated dimensions. It turns out that companies take 'rather little' action with regard to emergency and crisis concepts. With an index value of 3.13, the emergency and crisis concepts indicator is the one with the lowest level in the situation picture of business protection.

Further information on the study results can be found here: Situation Report of Business Protection NRW 2019

Cyber Pedigree of the University of Gloucestershire (UoG)

The development of future skills, of cyber-digital and cyber-security qualifications and competencies are currently the biggest hurdle for the further development in the medium-sized companies in NRW. This applies both to the strategic digital and global alignment of the companies and to the employability of the urgently needed high potentials who are able to drive the process forward. In order to enable such know-how development appropriate institutional partners and networks are required.
FHM has a longstanding, excellent collaboration with the University of Gloucestershire (UoG), which is one of the UK's leading cyber security universities in research and development, as well as study and teaching.

The Cyber Pedigree

Five things you need to know about "Cyber" at the University of Gloucestershire:

  1. Courses prioritise employability and produce business-ready graduates.
  2. Graduates are helping grow Gloucestershir´s intellectual capital
  3. The University of Gloucestershire is the first university to launch the Cyber Technical & Professional Degree Apprenticeship.
  4. The University of Gloucestershire is involved in a wide range of strategic and impactful projects.
  5. The University of Gloucestershire has a steadily growing research profile
    1. Randomness is at the heart of any cyber security system
    2. Towards greater security within IoT cyber physical enviroments
    3. Intelligent malware detection
    4. Artificial intelligence and physical systems
    5. Ethics and privacy, human behaviour in cyber security

The collaboration in a joint think tank for applied cyber sciences in a center for cyber security and digital innovations for SMEs would provide a future-oriented impetus for security and digitization in the North Rhine-Westphalian economy.

Offers of the institute


The University of Applied Sciences (FHM) as well as the University of Gloucestershire (UK) are planning to offer their digital economy and cyber security oriented study programs at Kreis Düren.

The University of Gloucestershire (UoG) is aiming to launch its bachelor's program in cyber and computing security.

The University of Applied Sciences (FHM) is offering a bachelor's degree in Digital Business Management. Another strategic direction of the institute is the implementation of a test center and a demonstration zone for cyber technologies.

Research & Knowledge Exchange

Research & knowledge exchange with national and international universities and partners is the novelty core of the institute. The institute aims to collaborate with other universities (national and international) and companies from the public and private sectors on cyber projects.

FHM and also the partners from the UK have been conducting cyber-related research for years. Work with companies on knowledge transfer partnerships has also been taking place for some time. These activities are to be expanded and developed in the course of the institute's work.

Business Transfer & Solution

Business Transfer of security and digital solutions, InnovationHub for growth and start-ups are the business-related offerings.
The institut will be the place for companies to go for cyber and digital solutions - a GrowthHub.
The institut will provide consulting, testing and demonstration opportunities, as well as services to develop solutions that support business growth. The institut will also be an innovation hub for startups.

Challenges for companies in NRW

Through its digital strategy, North Rhine-Westphalia has already created a roadmap to the digital future and is a pioneer in the field of digitalisation. However, with the advancing digitalisation of companies, there is also a growing risk from cyber attacks.

New thoughts for Security concepts

Cybersecurity must be created in the process of digital transformation of the economy and society. Therefore security concepts must develop and deliver pragmatic and innovative solutions for security-related challenges for people, business and society. Security must be developed as a future-oriented concept of thinking and acting. It must be primarily about enforcement in business and society.

  • Cybersecurity will be the key to a digital, prosperous economy and a democratic society.
  • Security is one of the biggest challenges of the present and future.
  • Security puts people into the focus. It is the biggest need in the current age of digitization, globalization and uncertainty. The pandemic also reveals essential security needs of people in everyday life.
  • Security in business and society, in technology and science, at home and in cyberspace, in terrorism, in international crises is exposed to multivariate threats.
  • Security is a state of being safe,and protected, protected from danger or damage.
  • Security around common “human rights, freedom, democracy, rule of law and international law” are the focus of the White Paper. The topics of the future are "early crisis detection", "hybrid warfare" and "cybersecurity".

Security concepts are less about “protection concepts” to ward off dangers from “data”, “work”, “health”, “consumers”, “environment”, “technologies” or even “religions”. "Digital data" such as "0" and "1" cannot be protected at all. Many “protection concepts” have become "independent"! Data protection cannot protect against “hackers”. Protection is in principle not possible because they are always one digital move further ahead. If, in borderline cases, the "protection of data" is rated higher than the security of people's lives in the corona pandemic, then "protection concepts" do not help in the end.
That is why it has to be about “security concepts” in which people permanently learn to deal with data in a positive and professional manner. If users with "passwords and systems" will be only "annoyed" when accessing them, no security is created, but more fend off. In the future more security options than only the "password-chaos" are necessary. Security concepts want to influence actively and provide new innovative solutions. Security concepts must grow with global and digital developments. With cybersecurity we are in the "global cyber-digital business".

Cyber-Digital-Business & Cyber Security: What can cyber-digital start-ups and SMEs expect?

Today start-ups are founding cyber-digitally.
In the digital transformation process, companies must be growth-oriented, global, sustainable and capable of learning. Companies only have a future if they are digital. They have to transform their previous business models. That sounds easy, but it isn't. The downfall of many classic business models is evident. The vinyl record as the core of the music industry has said goodbye as has the landline phone or the cash withdrawl from cashiers in the bank. Cash has ceased to play a role in global e-commerce.
And when YouTube was founded in 2005 and put small, homemade videos on the Internet, nobody believed in the start of the business model of a billion-dollar company. One goal of digitization is autonomous, self-thinking and self-learning systems or machines such as “robots”- as synonyms for developed devices that can reproduce human capabilities. This has many advantages. At the same time the boundaries of reality are shifting.
In the future, “real reality” can be both “real” and “really digital”. This transition is already flowing today when using "Augmented Reality" and "Virtual Reality" with AR / VR glasses, iPhone, headsets, apps, in games and simulations. In everyday reality, for example, these are new, digital high-tech products, technologies or services that enable customers to have a virtual experience and understanding of products and services. The networking of company data creates new perspectives and analyzes of the company. And at the same time, these new technologies create new services for start-ups and medium-sized companies that can operate worldwide and work on the highest conceptual and technological level. Examples are serious games and artificial intelligence (AI), which can be developed and used worldwide and across borders. And then there is no longer any difference between start-ups that develop games in Kenya, UK and Germany. The digital economy networks in larger areas of the economy and social life. Today more than 20 billion devices, computers and machines are said to be connected via the World Wide Web. In ten years that could be half a trillion networked systems on the Internet.

In the 18th century agriculture, trade and commerce were the engines, in 19th and 20th centuries industry and services with the medium-sized companies were the "hidden champions", in the economic core currently the new "cyber-digital systems" emerge, the digital champions of future. What will be new is the extreme speed of digital diffusion with all business opportunities, but at the same time with disruptive breakdowns. The pandemic experiences are currently giving digitization a further boost. A business model describes the structure and those key factors that are identity-creating for the business success of a company. Every company makes a "value and benefit promise to its customers" with its products, goods and services; these goods are produced and sold in the value creation process, and success is redeemed in the business model. Cyber-digital business models have to answer the question of whether the start-up, the family business, the market leader of medium-sized companies, the hidden champion and the global player are sufficiently digitalized. The competition for the cyber-digital future of companies has been going on for a long time.

Data is the raw material of the 21st century. Big Data & Artificial Intelligence (AI) are at the center of the digital transformation of a growth-oriented, global medium-sized company in the worldwide eco-system. But big data can no longer do without cyber security. The future of business and society is digital. The digital transformation is taking place from an analogue to a digital company. Companies only have a future if they are cyber-digital, global, growth-oriented, sustainable and capable of learning. From the perspective of business models, cyber-digital business encompasses both:

  • "Cyber Physical Systems (CPS)", the 4th industrial revolution, Industry 4.0 and the "Internet of Things" (IoT), as well as the
  • “Cyber Synthetic Biological Systems (CSBS)”, the 5th industrial revolution of the 21st century, with the “Internet of Living Things” (IoLT).17
  • Cybersecurity will be the key to a digital, prosperous and democratic society. Security concepts must be at the beginning of digitization in the company, and not at the end.

The digital vulnerability of the economy and society makes them the central target for cyber attacks. Hackers attack networks and systems every day. Almost every second a company is exposed to cyber-attacks. They are “victims” of criminal hacker attacks. However, most entrepreneurs and CEOs believe that only the others would be affected. A serious misperception. Public and private actors are affected alike. Methods are diverse, and the threat scenarios are increasing: even cyber-attacks on countries and their critical infrastructures are not fictional any more.

"The threat in cyberspace requires a holistic view within the framework of cybersecurity policy." White Paper 2016, p. 38e

Multi-University Campus Düren

FHMThe university for small and medium-sized enterprises.


The research focus on digitalisation and security has long been an area to which the FHM has dedicated itself. The topic is particularly important for medium-sized companies - FHM addresses digitalisation as a permanent challenge for the medium-sized economy, for example, through the renewed edition of the Digitalisation Index NRW or the situation report on economic protection. Particularly noteworthy are the numerous research and development projects of the FHM, which deal with the use of modern digital technologies in studies and teaching and also provide direct application benefits for our students.

Overview of FHM projects in the area of digitalisation and security

Projects Digitalisation/Security

The School of Start-up and Succession at FHM teaches entrepreneurial thinking and action by providing all students with methodical and personal support in founding their own start-up. In this way, the institute aims to fulfil its own claim of being a university "from medium-sized businesses for medium-sized businesses", because entrepreneurial thinking and action, along with creativity, innovation and courage, are central prerequisites for the success of medium-sized businesses.

School of Start-up and Succession

University of Gloucestershire - a community of students and expert lecturers who challenge each other to discover new things.

The University of Gloucestershire (UoG) is a young British university headquartered in Gloucestershire, England. Departments include Economics, Computing, Media, Arts & Communication, Geography, Biology, Social Sciences, Education and Sport. The university currently enrols around 10,000 full and part-time students. The UoG's School of Computing and Engineering is based at the university's largest campus, The Park. The University of Gloucestershire is involved in, and in many cases leads, a number of strategic cyber projects that are regionally and nationally significant.

Research activities of the School of Computing and Engineering

Research focuses of the university are:

  • The Centre for Cybersecurity and Digital Innovation is located in the Berkeley Green Science and Technology Park. This provides a specialised and secure environment for businesses and the university's own researchers.
  • Support for the government's plan to create a Cheltenham Cyber Business Park.
  • Projects under the Government's Strength in Places programme to create a cyber research and knowledge transfer facility at Cheltenham Cyber Park, in partnership with the University of Bristol, University of Bath and Cardiff University.
  • The National Institute of Coding. The University of Gloucestershire is leading, among other things, the Education the Educators work package, which supports future generations of teachers in preparing young talent for digital skills training.
  • The Institute of Technology in Swindon ("Swindon and Wiltshire Institute of Technology"), which is funded as part of the national government programme to establish 12 new institutes of technology. Undergraduate and practical programmes in competition and engineering are offered through the institute.
  • Support for the Berkeley University Technical College, specialising in computing and cyber, which helps create a good transition for students from secondary school to higher education.

For more information on the University of Gloucestershire's School of Computing and Engineering, click here:

School of Computing and Engineering

Working closely with leading national and international security companies such as Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, IRM, 3SDL, Qinetiq, BT and the National Cyber Security Centre, the University of Gloucestershire has also developed a range of cyber security degree courses for undergraduate and postgraduate students. In doing so, the University is bringing people from across the UK to Gloucestershire, training them in the latest cyber and computer skills and helping them to find the best jobs available.

Cybersecurity degree courses at the University of Gloucestershire

Study programmes at the
Multi-University Campus Düren

The team of the Institute for
Cybersecurity and Digital Innovation
for SMEs

Forschung & Entwicklung

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Volker Wittberg

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Volker Wittberg

Prorektor Forschung & Entwicklung

Prof. Dr. habil. Dr. h. c. Richard Merk

Prof. Dr. habil. Dr. h. c. Richard Merk

Leiter der School of Start-up & Succession


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