Bretagne is at the forefront of cyber defence and cybersecurity and is perfecting its expertise in this area every day within a rich and dynamic ecosystem. Thanks to large companies, recognised training and state-of-the-art research centres, Bretagne has made a name for itself in the world of security. In particular, Rennes which boasts an intense digital ecosystem with over 30,000 jobs and 4,100 companies, has developed general skills and know-how in cybersecurity. Today, Rennes is the cyber hub of French Ministry of the Armed Forces.
Breeding ground for cybersecurity businesses
Cradle of the Cyber Centre of Excellence, created in 2014 under the aegis of the Ministry of Defence and the Bretagne region, the city of Rennes alone has more than 70 pure-player private companies in the cyber sector, accounting for 3,300 employees*, out of the 160** companies in this sector in Bretagne.
Some of these companies are non-specialised, others develop their business from a key technology or an innovative service. Breton cyber companies supplies a large range of products and solutions : audits, advice, training and security products for e-mail, applications, data, infrastructures and equipment, the cloud, connected objects, threat prevention as well as on crisis management.
Several large groups have set up a cybersecurity site in Rennes
Among them : Thales or Airbus Cybersecurity, Alten, Altran Technologies, Sopra Steria, Atos and EDF which has set up here its SOC.
In 2022, Orange Cyberdéfense invested in a new building in Rennes, near its campus. The new building hosts 500 security engineers and technicians, representing 1/3 of the French workforce of the Group’s cyber business unit.
Naval Group has also made cybersecurity a strategic priority and is working on this subject in Bretagne, in particular in partnership with the b<>com Institute for Technological Research.
Not to mention Nokia which has turned its Lannion site into the group’s European center of excellence in cybersecurity.
Bretagne SME are also benefiting from the roll-out of the sector
Alongside Cailabs, Secure-IC, Syrlinks, Kereval, Viaccess-Orca or Akerva, Wallix has chosen Rennes in 2019 as the location for its second R&D center specializing in the development of new cybersecurity services operated in the cloud (Cloud Based Security Services – CBSS).
Apart from these SME already well established in the national cybersecurity landscape, Rennes is also an ideal territory to foster the emergence of new start-ups.
Rennes: 1st place in France for cybersecurity start-ups after Paris
Among them : Anozrway, Defants, Glimps, Hogo, One-Wave, Rubycat, Sekoia, Yes we hack and more.
Anozr Way, the rising French cybersecurity star, has been selected by the Ministry of the Interior as part of an experimental program concerning security for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Glimps, which offers cybersecurity solutions based on deep learning technology, has opened its first office outside France in Canada (Toronto).
Attractiveness of Breton skills
As a sign of the attractiveness of Breton skills, several companies have found buyers in recent years to accelerate their development.
In 2021, Ariadnext joined forces with the German group IDnow, with the aim of making this new group the European leader in online identity verification and authentication. ContentArmor, a leading developer of watermarking solutions for the media and entertainment industry, was acquired by Synamedia, the world’s largest independent video software provider. In early 2023, Amossys, recognized as a major player in cybersecurity product evaluation, was acquired by the French group Almond. The Italian Cy4gate group, listed on the stock exchange, acquired a 55% stake in Diateam, the Brest-based specialist in IT security and innovative information systems for government defense and corporate entities.
All the cybersecurity players in Bretagne are listed in a dedicated directory produced by BDI.
Recognised research laboratories and training
After Paris, Rennes is France’s leading cybersecurity research center.
There are 200 researchers working on technologically advanced topics, notably at Irisa / Inria, IRMAR and the Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan school.
More broadly, 560 people are dedicated to research on topics related to the world of cybersecurity in several organizations and research laboratories.
Inria / IRISA conducts research in computer science, applied mathematics and signal and image processing. Of its 850-strong workforce spread over 3 sites in Bretagne (Rennes, Vannes and Lannion), 140 are dedicated to cybersecurity.
IRMAR (Institut de recherche en mathématiques de Rennes) carries out research in cryptography. The IODE law research laboratory (Université Rennes 1 and CNRS) has developed a research focus on digital law and science, where cybersecurity and cybercrime are approached from a legal angle. IETR (Institut d’Électronique et de Télécommunications de Rennes) and LAB-STICC are also working on cybersecurity.
The Laboratoire Haute Sécurité (LHS) is a research platform shared by Inria, CentraleSupélec, the University of Rennes 1 and the CNRS, specializing in virology research and threat analysis. The LHS is also an incubator for industrial transfer.
Some 20 establishments in Bretagne offer training courses in cybersecurity (or related fields), training more than 3,500 students a year. These include the three military schools : Saint-Cyr Coëtquidan, Ecole des Transmissions in Rennes and Ecole Navale in Brest.
Since 2021, IMT Atlantique has had a building entirely dedicated to cybersecurity on its Rennes campus. It is equipped with laboratories to lead experiments and work with companies, a Faraday cage and a FabLab.
The Université de Bretagne Sud is training future cybersecurity engineers as part of the “Cybersecurity of Embedded Systems” master’s degree in Lorient and opened the Erasmus Mundus Cyberus European Master’s in Cybersecurity in 2022. This international program welcomes the world’s best students in this field.
The new EUR CyberSchool, which opened in September 2020, offers innovative and international cutting-edge training backed by research at Master’s and Doctorate levels, to train future experts, engineers and scientists in cybersecurity. The school draws on the expertise of the Universities of Rennes 1 and Rennes 2, ENS Rennes, four major engineering schools (CentraleSupélec, IMT Atlantic, INSA and ENSAI) and Science-Po Rennes. It also has special links with CNRS and Inria. The aim is both to unify further training around the various players in the field, such as IRISA, the Ministry of Armed Forces, DGA and Comcyber and to rise the number of cybersecurity students in Rennes to reach a total of around 580 students per year.
Rennes, cyber hub of the Ministry of Armed Forces
Rennes is now the heart of national cyber defence, with the Directorate General of Armaments Information Literacy (DGA-MI), Ecole de Transmissions and the Groupement de la Cyberdéfense des Armées (GCA). By 2025, 1,600 cyber-specialists are expected to be working for the armed forces in the Rennes region.
On 2 September 1968, Celar (electronic armaments centre) opened its doors in Bruz with some 50 people, at a time when electronics were expanding in Bretagne. Since 2012, DGA-MI has become the cyber defense technical expert for the French armed forces. Its areas of expertise include the protection and defense of information systems, technological support and validation for major weapons programs, the fight against electromagnetic attacks, and the use of artificial intelligence for defense purposes. Today, DGA-MI employs 2,100 people, 84% of whom are engineers, mainly civilians. The aim is to welcome 800 cyber defense experts by 2025. To accommodate these staff and their highly classified work, the center has invested in new buildings and structures that meet stringent security standards.
The Groupement de la Cyberdéfense des Armées (GCA) is now located near Rennes (in the Stéphant district of Saint Jacques de la Lande). A bastion of French cyberdefense, the Rennes site is dedicated to implementation and operational technical expertise. After an initial 11,000 m2 building inaugurated in October 2019, two further buildings will be delivered in 2025, for a total investment of €130m. The site will accommodate a total of 800 cyber-combatants. The Ministry of the Armed Forces has set up the Center for Analysis of Computer Defense (CALID), the Center for Audit of Information Systems Security (CASSI), the Joint Main Certification Center (CHPI), the Cyber Center for Operational Readiness (C2PO), as well as the 807th Transmission Company of the French Army, already present in Rennes.
The French national agency for information systems security (Anssi) has set up its first offices outside Paris, in Rennes. The move brings Anssi closer to its partners, to develop synergies between its various departments in understanding the cyber threat and detecting attacks, in order to strengthen France’s cyber defense. The new building is expected to house 200 staff by 2026.
Major places dedicated to business and innovation
Run by the DGA and the GCA, the Cyberdéfense Factory brings together civilians and military personnel to develop innovative cyber defense projects. This experimental facility, the only one of its kind in France, hosts SMEs, promising young cyber start-ups and academics, and encourages exchanges. It gives them access to data of cyber interest and the ability to develop and test solutions with experts and operational staff from the Ministry of the Armed Forces. At cruising speed, five to ten projects can be hosted in parallel for periods of 6 to 12 months.
The Digital Square incubator is home to digital and cybersecurity start-ups, which benefit from personalized support, shared services and equipment, including cubicles that can be approved as “confidential defense”. It is home to around 25 start-ups.
The Cyber Booster is the first start-up support program dedicated to cybersecurity in France. This new nationwide program is operated from the Campus Cyber in Paris and the Poool in Rennes.
The Cyberplace is a 7,600 m2 building entirely dedicated to cybersecurity companies, designed to encourage the emergence of collective projects. The facility comprises an incubator for start-ups with “confidential defense” premises, three secure office floors for established companies, a flex office space and shared services.
Tools to strengthen the Breton ecosystem
At the beginning of 2024, Bretagne will launch its “Cyber Campus”, a regional variation of the national Cyber Campus in Paris. The Breton campus will bring together companies, training, research and innovation players through a variety of initiatives. Events, meetings and working groups will be spread throughout the region: Brest, Lannion, Lorient, Rennes and Vannes. To steer this campus, the Region is relying on its economic agency Bretagne Développement Innovation. Objectives:
- Aim for 100% of companies and public sector players to be compliant with digital security standards by 2030.
- Increase access to national and European funding for Breton cyber players.
- Consolidate Bretagne’s 2nd place in France in terms of research, via the number of researchers and patents.
The Region will also be setting up a cyber-attack response center – CSIRT to serve local authorities and businesses. The aim of the CSIRT is to provide emergency response to any cyber-attack suffered by a local authority or company. It will be able to provide technical and organizational recommendations to victims to avoid the risk of relapse. The center will also contribute to raising awareness of digital risks and developing a cyber culture. Set up with technical and financial support from Anssi, the CSIRT will be operational in November 2023.
Major cybersecurity events in Rennes
European Cyber Week is the benchmark event in the strategic fields of cyber defense, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence. Every year in November, this Europe-wide event brings together the cybersecurity ecosystem of excellence around round-table discussions, conferences, CTF challenges and start-up pitches to promote training, research and innovation activities, and economic and industrial development. In 2022, the event welcomed over 4,800 visitors from the public and private sectors of the industry.
Breizh CTF is an IT security competition of the CTF (Capture the flag) type. The event welcomes 600 candidates, students or IT security enthusiasts looking for professional opportunities, who come to meet the companies present in search of new talent.
Symposium sur la sécurité des technologies de l’information et des communications (SSTIC) is a French-language conference on information security held every June in Rennes.
*According to the study “L’excellence cybersécurité civile et militaire dans Rennes Métropole“, AUDIAR, November 2020.
**160 companies have at least one activity related to securing content and data.
- L’excellence cybersécurité civile et militaire dans Rennes Métropole, AUDIAR, novembre 2020
- Secteur Cybersécurité – Rennes Métropole (source AUDIAR)
- L’annuaire des acteurs de la cybersécurité en Bretagne, BDI
- Groupement de Cyberdéfense des Armées | Passation de commandement de 3 centres & évolution du CRPOC, 11/07/2022, Ministère des Armées
- Cyberdéfense : « la mise en œuvre et l’expertise technique opérationnelle sont à Rennes », 15/07/2022, Ouest France
- Nouveau commandant, académie : ambitions confirmées pour le groupement de cyberdéfense des armées, 18/07/2023, Ouest France
- La Bretagne se dote d’un centre de réponses aux cyberattaques, 14/09/2023, RCF Bretagne
- Des Campus Cyber régionaux pour mailler le territoire, 09/06/23, Les Echos
- Le campus cyber breton devrait voir le jour en 2023, 25/11/22, 7 Jours