Former GCHQ chief highlights Manchester’s importance in national security

Gaven Smith

A former GCHG boss will explain why Manchester is integral to the Government security agency’s ongoing effort to protect the UK and its citizens.

Gaven Smith, former chief technology officer at GCHQ, is speaking at DTX, at Manchester Central, this Thursday (May 23).

DTX is billed as the North’s biggest enterprise IT event, embracing tech leaders from all sectors over two days, from May 22-23, and the anchor event of Manchester Tech Week.

Gaven is an internationally recognised engineering leader with more than 30 years’ experience in the UK National Security community.

Until late 2023, he was Director General for Technology and Chief Technology Officer at GCHQ.

The government security agency opened its first  Manchester office in 2019, and in an exclusive preview for ahead of his speech, Gaven outlined the growing importance of Manchester to the UK security agency.

“We live in an increasingly complex and volatile world. From the war in Ukraine, through the current crisis in the Middle East, to the ever-present threat of terrorism, the real-world threats around us have never felt closer to home.

“And as we all live more and more of our lives online, the impact of cybercrime and online harms has never been higher, too.

“The keyboard is now the weapon of choice for many of those that want to do us harm.

“GCHQ – Government Communications Headquarters – the UK’s intelligence, security and cyber agency – is at the very heart of the nation’s response to all of those threats. Increasingly, that work is happening right here in Manchester and the wider North West.

“As the former Chief Technology Officer for GCHQ, I know first hand how important it is that we bring the best possible team together to solve problems.  That can’t just happen in London or in GCHQ’s iconic Doughnut-shaped building in Cheltenham.

“And it can’t just happen inside GCHQ. The business of national security needs to move out of the shadows and become more and more of a partnership with industry, with academia, and with all of us.”

He added: “Five years ago, GCHQ established a new base in Manchester. The agency employs numerous intelligence officers who play a pivotal role in keeping the UK safe from harm. The GCHQ teams work with partners across the North West – and all around the UK and rest of the world – on its shared mission of keeping the UK safe, resilient and prosperous in the digital age.

“Manchester was selected as the location for GCHQ as part of a mission to drive more openness in UK national security. Understandably, much of the agency’s operations are still classified, but today GCHQ collaborates more frequently with the private sector and universities, understanding the value they offer UK intelligence and security.

“Manchester boasts some of the UK’s top universities, and the infamous Mancunian ‘can do’ attitude was recognised as an important asset. GCHQ understood that to defend against the ever-evolving cyber techniques used by foreign adversaries, it would benefit from the diverse talent pool prevalent in the region.

“At this year’s DTX Manchester, I will be hosting a keynote session around ‘Why Manchester – and the North West – give us a new and cutting edge in UK National Security’?

“In my session, I will discuss why organisations, including GCHQ, are turning to Manchester in the fight against cyber and other national security threats. I will talk about Manchester’s innovation and exciting talent pool, its world-leading universities and how it is vital that organisations look to all regions in the UK to help bolster their resilience against digital threats.

“Cyber attacks are not region specific, so our defences can’t be either.

“Manchester is not only a fantastic city, but also where some of the brightest digital minds live and work tirelessly every day to keep the UK safe and successful in our increasingly hostile digital world.”