The CISPA Building

The Center for IT-Security, Privacy and Accountability (short: CISPA) was established in October 2011 as a national, BMBF-funded competence center for IT security and privacy at Saarland University. Since its inauguration, CISPA has not only been the nucleus for shaping and structuring all research activities in cybersecurity and privacy in Saarbruecken, but it also served as umbrella for all cybersecurity and privacy researchers on site. Between 2011 and 2017, CISPA already evolved into a distinguished brand for cybersecurity and privacy research of international renown, and it has been steadily growing by attracting prestigious grants and large-scale research projects and collaborations. The financial support of the BMBF by means of project-based funding has triggered and fueled the development of CISPA in its current form, and we managed to manifold this funding using other sources (ERC, DFG, EU, etc.): CISPA has attracted more than EUR 75 M of third-party funding in the last five years, with a steep upward gradient – from an annual amount of EUR 1.3 M in 2011 to more than EUR 12 M p.a. in 2016, tendency strongly rising. The bulk of these funds stems from scientific achievements based upon scientific excellence: ERC grants, a DFG Sonderforschungsbereich, the CISPA-Stanford Center, etc.

Grounding continuous growth upon scientific excellence constitutes the heart of CISPA’s general development strategy, both in the past as a BMBF competence center and in the future as a sustained Helmholtz center.

Selected achievements of CISPA include the following key facts:

  • CISPA researchers have published more than 650 scientific papers on security-related topics in peer-reviewed conferences and journals, out of which more than 50% were accepted at top-tier conferences and journals (according to Microsoft Academic Search).
  • CISPA researchers have acquired more than EUR 75 M of external funding. This excludes the funding CISPA receives as part of the ongoing DFG Cluster of Excellence and the DFG Graduate School of Computer Science at Saarland University.
  • CISPA faculty have received the ERC Synergy Grant – Europe’s most distinguished research prize awarded for the first time to computer scientists (about EUR 10 M for foundational research). Five additional ERC grants were awarded to CISPA faculty.
  • CISPA faculty were successful in establishing a Collaborative Research Center funded by the German Research Association (DFG-Sonderforschungsbereich) “Methods and Tools for Understanding and Controlling Online Privacy” in early 2016.
  • CISPA has established the CISPA-Stanford Center for Cybersecurity Research funded by the BMBF (annual funding € 3 M in steady state for a duration of 8 years). It constitutes a unique elite career perspective for the best junior cybersecurity researchers in Germany and Europe by granting them the possibility to spend their formative years as a faculty at both CISPA and Stanford University. It moreover constitutes a pipeline for the next generation of cybersecurity faculty which will fuel the fast yet high-quality build-up of CISPA over the next ten years.
  • CISPA has established a unique Bachelor university program in cybersecurity at Saarland University in 2014 to meet CISPA’s growing demand for highly skilled research personnel. Now in its third year, the program already constitutes the 6th largest study at Saarland University as far as first-semester students are concerned, on par with general computer science. In particular, the Bachelor program will significantly contribute to the rapid build-up of CISPA by providing a steady stream of highly educated students that wish to pursue their PhD at CISPA.
  • CISPA research has led to six successful spin-off companies that have turned the research prototypes into commercially successful products. These spin-offs already received an IKT Innovation Award, two EXIST Start-up Grants, and two CeBIT Innovation Awards.