Town Talk | As leaders gather to celebrate 15 years of KU Innovation Park, they look ahead to plans for national cybersecurity center on West Campus | News, Sports, Jobs | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, left, and KU Chancellor Douglas Girod, are pictured on June 23, 2023, at a 15-year anniversary event for KU Innovation Park.

Area leaders believe the West Campus of the University of Kansas has a strong chance to become a national hub for cybersecurity research and related companies.

They’ve long had a well-placed patron of that cause in U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, who recently has become even more influential in U.S. national security with his appointment to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Moran on Friday told a Lawrence crowd gathered on KU’s West Campus to celebrate the 15th anniversary of KU Innovation Park that’s he’s going to push hard for federal funding to create a new national cybersecurity center at KU.

“I want you to know that this is hugely important for the national security and economic well-being of our nation,” Moran, R-Kansas, said of future cybersecurity development at KU Innovation Park on West Campus.

Now, he’s got the task of convincing fellow members of Congress to provide needed funding for such a center. He acknowledged finding such funding has become more challenging in the wake of the recent debt ceiling debate that nearly created a financial crisis as the country risked defaulting on its national debt.

“I’m an appropriator,” Moran said, referring to his seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, “and I can see what we are going to have as a challenge to make the appropriations process work because there is a lot less money today, this year, than there was last year and the year before.

“No doubt we have to get a balanced budget. It is important to our economy and our national security, but how we do that is hugely important. We are going to continue to try to make certain that one of the beneficiaries of investment is the KU Innovation Park.”

KU is ready with a project to put funding to use. As the Journal-World has reported, KU is seeking $30 million to build the Kansas National Security Innovation Center, which would focus on research related to cybersecurity and other innovations that could be used by the homeland security or defense industries. Plans call for the center to be constructed on West Campus as part of the KU Innovation Park project.

Moran was in Lawrence Friday as the keynote speaker for a 15th anniversary celebration of the park. Since its founding, the park has grown to a complex that has multiple buildings hosting both start-up and established technology companies that want to be close to KU researchers and students.

The park hosts offices and laboratories for well-known companies including Archer Daniels Midland, Garmin, Burns & McDonnell, Security Benefit Corp., plus many start-up firms totaling more than three dozen companies currently.

A partnership between KU, the state of Kansas, the city and county and the local chamber, among others, formed the park from the ground up. Now, more than 500 employees of the various companies are based at KU Innovation Park facilities, and those jobs are providing an annual payroll of about $36 million, according to figures provided by park officials. By 2026, park employment is expected to top 900 employees with payroll of more than $60 million. By 2036, park leaders are projecting more than 4,000 jobs and payroll topping $260 million. Those 2036 figures envision a much different West Campus that is developed with multiple buildings that house researchers and companies side by side.

Here’s a look at two renderings prepared by park officials. The first shows the current amount of development in KU Innovation Park. The second shows the projected development in 15 years.

photo by: KU Innovation Park

A rendering shows the current state of development of KU Innovation Park on West Campus.

photo by: KU Innovation Park

A rendering shows the projected development in 15 years at KU’s Innovation Park on West Campus.

KU Chancellor Douglas Girod told the Journal-World in a brief interview that he thinks the West Campus project is nearing the point of critical mass where the pace of major new investments will accelerate.

“You are going to see faster spinouts and creation of new companies, and you also are going to see an acceleration of established companies putting down a significant footprint,” Girod said. “A couple of those are already in the works, and that will create the environment we are after that is just self-perpetuating at that point.”


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