Cranfield University has established a strategic partnership with experienced digital forensic practitioners CCL Solutions Group, as it continues to develop its new state-of-the-art forensic science education and research centre in Bedfordshire.

CCL has worked with Cranfield Forensic Institute (CFI) to provide guidance on the structure and content of a new MSc in Digital Forensics, providing the potential to position the course as the leading digital forensics degree in the UK. CCL is also developing collaborative research proposals with Cranfield to address emerging issues and opportunities in digital forensics.

Over 90% of crime is now recognised as having a digital element and the UK Government has stated that digital forensic science sits at the heart of delivering justice in the 21st century, spanning the entire criminal justice system from crime scene to courtroom.

The new MSc will seek to address the academically orientated operational needs of UK policing and serious skills shortage of educated and trained individuals in the field to fill digital forensic positions and support the UK’s criminal justice system.

Professor Andrew Shortland, Director of Cranfield Forensic Institute, said: “We’re very pleased to be working together with CCL in our teaching and research activities. Our strategic partnership will mean students are taught by practitioners and researchers working at the forefront of digital forensics, providing exposure to the latest developments and challenges.

“As digital forensics becomes one of the most critical fields within forensic science, the Digital Forensics MSc at Cranfield University is more important now than it has ever been. Exposure to up-to-date research targeted at addressing current real-world problems means that students will not just be academically prepared to enter the digital forensics field, but practically prepared for it too.”

Noel McMenamin, Chief Executive Officer of CCL, said: “We are honoured to be working in partnership with such a well-renowned, recognised and respected institution as Cranfield University. CCL Solutions Group is committed to delivering the highest quality and standard of accredited services and products, as well as strategically investing in research and development projects. Combining the academic and practical elements of Digital Forensics, together with the talent and expertise of our people, represents a compelling offer for students, as well as providing our communities and industry with the next generation of specialists.”

Cranfield Defence and Security Services Ltd., a commercial trading entity of Cranfield University, has also formed a new partnership with specialist cyber security provider CYSIAM to deliver short courses aimed at global law enforcement, military and security services.

The training courses will focus on the technical and procedural skills required to conduct operational forensics and investigations on all types of digital platforms, from mobile phones to networks and drones. Courses will be led by expert practitioners who have used digital forensics to counter organised crime and terrorist operations in some of the most hostile and challenging parts of the world.

Simon Harwood, Managing Director of Cranfield Defence and Security Services Ltd, said: “Digital forensics is an ‘in-demand’ skill and we are delighted to partner with CYSIAM to bring operational experience to our portfolio of defence and security education and research. Underpinned by the most up-to-date defence and security research from Cranfield, these practical courses will enable delegates to develop sustainable skills to take back to their critical roles.”

Steve Lancaster, CYSIAM CEO, said: “We feel privileged to be working alongside an organisation with the history and global respect that Cranfield has. Our focus is on ensuring that people who protect and support freedom around the globe are able to capture and secure digital evidence of wrongdoing, enabling safe and fair judicial prosecutions.”

In 2020, CFI successfully secured £3.6 million funding from the South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership (SEMLEP) Local Growth Fund as matched funding to investment of £3.6 million by Cranfield University to create a state-of-the-art forensic investigation teaching and research facility at its Bedfordshire campus near Milton Keynes.

Judith Barker, Director of Programmes and Governance at SEMLEP added: “We’re proud to be supporting this project through the Local Growth Fund. Not only will the new facility bring a world-class forensic sciences institute to the area, it will also support the country to develop the attributes and skills required to respond to crime and develop for our modern, dynamic and competitive economy now and in the future.”

The structure of the MSc in Digital Forensics has been reviewed and updated and will now comprise seven modules of taught material plus a research project, with a focus aligned to the needs of practitioners in the sector.