Gibraltar and La Linea have signed agreements with technology company WISeKey International Holding to develop a cross-border research and development centre to spearhead innovation in the region.
WISeKey, a global company active in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence [AI], blockchain and the Internet of Things [IoT], said the initiative aimed to develop “a joint 4th Industrial Revolution Center of Excellence” and tap opportunities on both sides of the border.
The company confirmed the initiative in a statement on Monday but had already flagged it up with a prominent visual advert, featuring images of Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and La Linea Mayor Juan Franco, on screens outside the NASDAQ technology stock exchange in New York on Friday.
WISeKey, which is listed on the NASDAQ and the Swiss stock exchange, is led by the Swiss-based La Linea-born businessman Carlos Moreira, who tweeted footage of the advert.
The company has already signed Memorandums of Understanding with the Gibraltar Government and La Linea’s town council for the project, which is still in its fledgling stages but aims to be up and running by the end of the year.
The timing of the announcement comes at a critical time for Gibraltar and La Linea, with the UK and the EU hoping to commence discussions in the coming weeks for a UK/EU treaty on the Rock’s future relations with the bloc.
The UK, Gibraltar and Spain have stated that their hope is to establish a new immigration and, potentially, customs framework that will facilitate the creation of a cross-border “area of shared prosperity”.
The business model of the joint La Linea/Gibraltar 4th Industrial Revolution Center of Excellence [LLG 4IR Center of Excellence] is to assist innovative start-ups in areas such as AI, blockchain, IoT, satellite technology, drones, cybersecurity and quantum computing to perform collective research and development activities.
The centre will seek to promote their technologies internationally, facilitate the rapid adaptation of 4IR-based solutions, foster stronger collaboration between the public, private and academic sectors and cooperate to ensure that the latest technological standards are made available in a safe and trusted manner.
The LLG 4IR Center of Excellence will connect securely with the WISeKey Geneva Center of Excellence and will coordinate with other centres and blockchain ecosystems around the world, allowing all partners to fully benefit from shared experiences and resources.
Each Center of Excellence is expected to develop a particular expertise that can be shared among all centres.
The La Linea/Gibraltar centre will start operations with the launch of WISeSAT Fossa Systems satellites at the end of 2021 with an earth station located in La Linea.
The objective of this pilot project is to enable the joint centre to become a hub for IoT cybersecurity satellite deployment and communication under plans being advanced by WISeKey and Fossa Systems, a company involved in reinventing the design and manufacturing of satellites.
“We are delighted to join forces with Gibraltar and La Línea governmental authorities,” Mr Moreira said.
“Currently, WISeKey is working with several government and leading global companies to establish centres of excellence in selected regions around the world for the creation of a number of interconnected Centers of Excellence and has entered into strategic agreements with a series of disruptive companies working with 4IR technologies.”
“As we can witness with the development of the Malaga Valley, where I was personally involved with the planning and development and have been serving as Vice President since 2015, this part of the world has a unique appeal due to its geolocation.”
In announcing the project, WISeKey said the “4th Industrial Revolution” was changing the dynamics of the technology and value creation chain, cross-border collaboration and the way companies integrate their research and technology to create value for their customers.
New business and cooperation models emerge through integrating business partners and clients, it said.
“We are excited about the potential of the LLG 4IR Center of Excellence which is expected to play a key role in accelerating the digital transformation across Gibraltar, be pivotal in enabling a paradigm shift for our operations through more digital technologies, while unlocking new business and operating models,” Mr Picardo said.
La Linea’s Mr Franco added: “The LLG 4IR Center of Excellence will play a pivotal role in uplifting the technical skills of the regional workforce and bringing advanced technology capabilities to realize the digital transformation of the region.”
“The LLG 4IR Center of Excellence will also benefit from WISeKey’s operational performance to enable greater efficiencies and significant cost savings and help further strengthen their global leadership in 4iE technologies.”
WISeKey has 1.5 billion of its microchips installed in virtually all IoT sectors including connected cars, smart cities, drones, agricultural sensors, anti-counterfeiting, smart lighting, servers, computers, mobile phones and crypto tokens, among other.
The company says it is “uniquely positioned” to be at the edge of IoT.
Its semiconductors produce a huge amount of “big data” which, when analysed with artificial intelligence, can help industrial applications to predict the failure of their equipment before it happens.