ARTICLE: Cybersecurity and Defence, two sides of the same coin

  • Author: Prof. Dr. José María de Fuentes
    Associate Professor, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid.
  • Published in: ASSETs+ website
  • Date: October 2023

With the sad evolution of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, one might think that battles have remained the same over the centuries. Tanks, missiles, guns and casualties. Although this would be bad news per se, the actual situation is far worse due to the irruption of the cyberworld.

From some years now, Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) is a particular cyberthreat which is typically targeted to high-profile victims – ambassadors, CEOs, politicians, etc. Indeed, a vast array of population may have something valuable for attackers, such as intellectual property, money or even contacts to keep on the infection chain. One may see oneself as irrelevant, but as we are all connected, we are a link in a chain.

Several countries are well-known for their APT activity. For example, Russian APT29 compromised Solarwinds, a worldwide cybersecurity tool. North Korean Lazarus stole a substantial amount of money from banks using a sophisticated infection vector. Chinese Pandas are also remarkable for their effectiveness (e.g., Mustang Panda group), and a number of other countries (India, Iran, etc.) are increasing their activity. Several portals offer a list of known APT groups, such as Thailand’s ETDA threat actor encyclopedia.

Even the said Ukrainian conflict has witnessed the influence of APTs, with Belarus-based groups performing targeted attacks. Interestingly, the combination of APTs with fake news is challenging as they address both users and machines. The overall confidence and trust can be undermined, and this may destabilize the society in general. This wouldn’t be the first time APTs have an impact into the real world – Black energy caused power outages in Crimea, resulting in thousands of casualties due to the absence of heating.

As a natural consequence of all these facts, APTs have received extensive research attention in the last years, and they are a hot topic in the Defence community. It is important to raise awareness on this threat. For the interested reader, an online course is being taught by Universidad Carlos III de Madrid focused on cybersecurity for beginners. Complementarily, the ASSETS+ Project has prepared a number of modules on cybersecurity, with emphasis in the Defence sector.

The Defence sector is particularly concerned about this threat, so present and future professionals should keep up-to-date on this matter. This is the only way in which we may prevent their success. ENISA, as the reference forum of cybersecurity in the European Union, is an excellent source of information in this regard.

The moment is now, tomorrow will be too late. They are smart, powerful and numerous, so invest some time in training and upskilling to become a human firewall.

Happy #CyberSecMonth!

ARTICLE: ASSETs+ certification: a passport for employability

  • Authors: Manuela Costone, CIMEA
  • Published in: September 2023
  • Date: September 2023

ASSETs+ has designed 30 education & training programmes to provide trainees with new skills related to key technologies that will be expected in the Defence sector in the coming years.

The Alliance for Strategic Skills addressing Emerging Technologies in Defence (ASSETs+) was launched in 2020 with the aim to build a sustainable human resources supply chain for the European Defence Industry.

Since then, ASSETs+ has designed and developed 30 education & training courses at EQF levels 4, 5, 6 and 7, covering the Vocational Education and Training (VET) and Higher Education (HE) sectors, to respond to the labour market needs by upskilling their employees and attracting high skilled young workers.

The European Qualifications Framework (EQF) is an 8-level, learning outcomes-based framework for all types of qualifications that serves as a translation tool between different national qualifications frameworks. This framework helps improve transparency, comparability and portability of people’s qualifications and makes it possible to compare qualifications from different countries and institutions.

When we design courses, a certification system needs to be planned, in order to highlight the learning outcomes and, in some cases, quantify the workload by the ECTS or ECVET systems. The certification is a passport for employability as it describes the educational and professional paths, showing individual knowledge and competencies.

How does it work within the ASSETs+ project?

All the partners involved, industries, sectoral organizations, universities, VET providers and accreditation bodies, worked together to develop a certification model. As a result, the ASSETs+ awarding institutions (VET and HE institutions and industrial partners) issue a Certificate of Attendance, showing that the learner attended the course, and a Certificate of Achievement, which reflect the success in completing the final exam foreseen to assess the competences acquired.

Annexed to this, the “Certificate Supplement”, strictly related to the Europass Certificate Supplement, provides detailed information on the attended ASSETs+ course, to make it easier for employers, educational and vocational institutions to understand the value and the contents of the course. As for the learners, a certificate for teachers and trainers was developed, in order to give visibility and a clear understanding of the innovative teaching and training contents.

As such, the ASSETS+ certificates need to be in compliance with the national education and training systems of the countries involved. The ASSETs+ Certificate of Achievement takes into consideration the EU good practices on quality assurance as well as provide clear evidence of the achievement of a learner by also showing the essential information on the learning outcomes acquired through the issuing of the Certificate Supplement.

In addition, following the recent development at EU level, it is important to underline that the certification model designed within the ASSETs+ project was developed considering the recent Council Recommendation on a European approach to micro-credentials, which defines a micro-credential as: “the record of the learning outcomes that a learner has acquired following a small volume of learning”.

Thus, the courses that were developed, as well as the certification model itself, are based on a learner-centered approach, by putting an accent on the importance of the learning outcomes acquired by an individual.

SCIENTIFIC PAPER Sharing our experience of the ASSETs+ European Defence Challenge from the design to the implementation.

  • Authors: Grivel, E., Burgos, M., Stadnicka, D., & Fantoni, G.
  • Published in: 2023 IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference (EDUCON)
  • Date: May 2023

In this paper, we propose to share our positive experience about the organization of the yearly European Defence Challenge, from the design to the execution.

After a preliminary phase during which the students can follow various webinars, this challenge operates with the following two steps: during the first one, student teams submit a one-page note about a given topic related to the Defence domain.

The proposals are evaluated by different experts in the field. Then, some student teams are selected to move on to the second phase of the challenge during which they develop their ideas in a 10-page proposal. Additional events punctuate the challenge, from a webinar at the beginning of the second phase to the award ceremony with invited speakers having different backgrounds, from industry to economics passing by politics.

This challenge is hence a good way for students to define their professional plans by discovering a domain, its activities and its stakeholders. This is also a good opportunity to strengthen the synergies between the higher-education institutions and companies and more generally to facilitate the interactions between the actors of an ecosystem.

Grivel, E., Burgos, M., Stadnicka, D., & Fantoni, G. (2023, May). Sharing our experience of the ASSETs+ European Defence Challenge from the design to the implementation. In 2023 IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference (EDUCON) (pp. 1-7). IEEE.

SCIENTIFIC PAPER Artificial Intelligence for Defence in an EQF6 Training and Education Program, from the Design to the Execution

  • Authors: Grivel, E., Pesquet, B., Airimitoaie, T. B., & Zemmari, A.
  • Published in: 2023 IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference (EDUCON)
  • Date: May 2023

In this paper, we present the main steps of the methodology we followed to design and prototype a module dedicated to artificial intelligence (AI) for Defence for students at the level 6 in the European Qualifications Framework (EQF).

Based on a top-down approach for the design taking into account the market needs, this module is based on seasonal schools, project-based learning and invited speakers coming from the local ecosystem sharing their experiences with AI. This combination aims at attracting students to engineering in the field of Defence.

Finally, it should be noted that a part of this module can be done in a hybrid way.

Grivel, E., Pesquet, B., Airimitoaie, T. B., & Zemmari, A. (2023, May). Artificial Intelligence for Defence in an EQF6 Training and Education Program, from the Design to the Execution. In 2023 IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference (EDUCON) (pp. 1-5). IEEE.

SCIENTIFIC PAPER Text and Dynamic Network Analysis for Measuring Technological Convergence: A Case Study on Defense Patent Data

  • Authors: Vito Giordano, Filippo Chiarello, Nicola Melluso, Gualtiero Fantoni, Andrea Bonaccorsi
  • Published in: IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management
  • Date: April 2023

Identifying technology convergence is getting harder, especially in fast-evolving and cross-technological fields. On the other side, natural language processing and network analysis researchers is to provide a novel method for mapping technologies and their relations over time, in order to identify dynamic patterns of convergence and to test it on the C4ISTAR field, a defense-related cross-technological field.

The methodology automatically extracts technologies from a corpus of scientific papers, policy documents, websites, and company reports using Named Entity Recognition approaches. These technologies are then retrieved from the second corpus of more than 300 thousand patents related to the C4ISTAR domain, measuring their cooccurrences over time.

Finally, using the time-varying network analysis, we were able to identify and measure the pattern of technological convergence.

Giordano, V., Chiarello, F., Melluso, N., Fantoni, G., & Bonaccorsi, A. (2021). Text and dynamic network analysis for measuring technological convergence: A case study on defense patent data. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management.

ARTICLE Technology identification from patent texts: A novel named entity recognition method

  • Authors: Giovanni Puccetti, Vito Giordano, Irene Spada, Filippo Chiarello, Gualtiero Fantoni
  • Published in: Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 186, 122160
  • Date: January 2023

Identifying technologies is a key element for mapping a domain and its evolution. It allows managers and decision makers to anticipate trends for an accurate forecast and effective foresight. Researchers and practitioners are taking advantage of the rapid growth of the publicly accessible sources to map technological domains. Among these sources, patents are the widest technical open access database used in the literature and in practice.

Nowadays, Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques enable new methods for the analysis of patent texts. Among these techniques, in this paper we explore the use of Named Entity Recognition (NER) with the purpose to identify the technologies mentioned in patents’ text. We compare three different NER methods, gazetteer-based, rule-based and deep learning-based (e.g. BERT), measuring their performances in terms of precision, recall and computational time.

We test the approaches on 1600 patents from four assorted IPC classes as case studies. Our NER systems collected over 4500 fine-grained technologies, achieving the best results thanks to the combination of the three methodologies. The proposed method overcomes the literature thanks to the ability to filter generic technological terms. Our study delineates a valid technology identification tool that can be integrated in any text analysis pipeline to support academics and companies in investigating a technological domain.

Puccetti, G., Giordano, V., Spada, I., Chiarello, F., & Fantoni, G. (2023). Technology identification from patent texts: A novel named entity recognition method. Technological Forecasting and Social Change186, 122160.

SCIENTIFIC PAPER Are universities ready to deliver digital skills and competences?

  • Authors: Irene Spada, Filippo Chiarello, Simone Barandoni, Gianluca Ruggi, Antonella Martini, Gualtiero Fantoni
  • Date: September 2022

We still know little about the role of higher education in the digital transformation. If on one side the labour market is constantly evolving and is asking for an upskilling process of the workforce, higher education institutions struggle to be agile enough. Therefore, it is necessary to measure and to better understand this gap.

In the scientific paper “Are universities ready to deliver digital skills and competences?“, our partners from the University of Pisa: Irene Spada, Filippo Chiarello, Simone Barandoni, Gianluca Ruggi, Antonella Martini and Gualtiero Fantoni, describe a quantitative approach to deal with this problem, focusing on the marketing sector. Through text mining, they develop a model of automatic job competencies extraction from Italian texts, using it to retrieve the skills expressed both in the exam’s descriptions of universities and the job vacancies.

The results allow to compare the skills offered by higher education with the labor market’s needs in Italy, exploring and highlighting the digital gaps existing between the two.

ASSETs+ applied a similar approach in the automatic skills analysis realized during the first year of the project: we extracted skills from job vacancies using the automated algorithm presented in the paper. The automatic reading of the description allows us to detect patterns of terms similar to the ESCO skills and formalize the proposal for ESCO.

Spada, I., Chiarello, F., Barandoni, S., Ruggi, G., Martini, A., & Fantoni, G. (2022). Are universities ready to deliver digital skills and competences? A text mining-based case study of marketing courses in Italy. Technological Forecasting and Social Change182, 121869.

SCIENTIFIC PAPER On the link between Education and Industry 4.0: a framework for a data-driven education design

  • Authors: Irene Spada, Filippo Chiarello, Alessandra Curreli, Gualtiero Fantoni
  • Published in:IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference (EDUCON)
  • Date: March 2022

The fast pace of technological evolution, pushed by the Industry 4.0 and accelerated by the COVID-19, is in contrast with the slow change of the education institutions. Indeed, they struggle to promptly update their programs to be aligned with the labour market needs.

In such a dynamic environment, a rethinking of the education design process is fundamental to support schools, universities and learning centres through a faster digitalization of their services. The emerging perspectives in curriculum design propose the use of data to develop and deliver better courses to students taking advantage of technological evolution.

In this paper, we attempt to present a framework for using data as a support of education design, with a focus on textual data. The aim is to delineate a framework to exploit Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Named Entity Recognition (NER) techniques in data-driven strategies for designing courses. To support these techniques, we disclose a map of the most relevant concepts that can aid education design and can be mined with NLP.

Spada, I., Chiarello, F., Curreli, A., & Fantoni, G. (2022, March). On the link between Education and Industry 4.0: a framework for a data-driven education design. In 2022 IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference (EDUCON) (pp. 1670-1677). IEEE.

INTERVIEW with the research team of ASSETs+ on CTSoc News on Consumer Technology

  • Published in: CTSocNews on Consumer Technology (NCT)
  • Date: March 2022

CTSoc News on Consumer Technology (NCT) has published an interview with our partners from the University of PisaGualtiero Fantoni, ASSETs+ Project Coordinator, and Filippo Chiarello, Assistant professor at the School of Engineering, about the ASSETs+ project, the challenges of the defence sector and how the project is facing these challenges.

The fast pace of technological evolution is radically changing the labour market. Design educational content for the workforce of the near future is essential.

European Defence industry is struggling in finding well-suited workers to ensure leadership, competitiveness, and sustainability in the medium- to long-term on the international panorama. In addition, young generations are not engaged in Defence issues and usually don’t see careers in Defence as promising opportunity. Therefore, Defence companies should develop new strategies to attract and keep young talented workers.

There are many prejudices about Defence activities, however this industry is always at the frontiers of innovation offering the more advanced technologies and a very international and multidisciplinary environment.

The ASSETs+ project is working to explode the myths and biases around the Defence sector and designing new courses and challenges (i.e.European Defence Challenge) able to attract students’ attention.

Gualtiero Fantoni, University of Pisa; Filippo Chiarello, University of PisaFea. (March2022). CTSocNews on Consumer Technology (NCT)

ARTICLE Blending brainstorming with industrial experts and automatic data-driven analysis

  • Authors: Filippo Chiarello, Irene Spada,
  • Published in: CTSocNews on Consumer Technology (NCT)
  • Date: February 2022

The article describes the technology and skills analysis done in the ASSETs+ project and the process that leads to the development of the Defence Technologies Roadmap, starting from the Natural Language Processing (NLP) techniques for big data analysis of technical and scientific documentation and the brainstorming sessions with panels of industrial experts, developed during the first two years of the project, to the blending process of these months.

It has been published in the February issue of CTSoc News on Consumer Technology (NCT) online monthly publication that divulgues timely and newsworthy articles that bring a wide range of topics related to the consumer technology industry.

ARTICLE: Towards ESCO 4.0 – Is the European classification of skills in line with Industry 4.0? A text mining approach

  • Authors: Filippo Chiarello, Gualtiero Fantoni, Terence Hogarth, Vito Giordano, Liga Baltina, Irene Spada
  • Published in: Technological Forecasting and Social Change
  • Date: December 2021

ESCO is a multilingual classification of Skills, Competences, Qualifications, and Occupations created by the European Commission to improve the supply of information on skills demand in the labour market. It is designed to assist individuals, employers, universities and training providers by giving them up to date and standardized information on skills.

Rapid technological change means that ESCO needs to be updated in a timely manner. Evidence is presented here of how text-mining techniques can be applied to the analysis of data on emerging skill needs arising from Industry 4.0 to ensure that ESCO provides information which is current.

The alignment between ESCO and Industry 4.0 technological trends is analysed. Using text mining techniques, information is extracted on Industry 4.0 technologies from: two versions of ESCO (v1.0 – v1.1.); and from the 4.0 related scientific literature. These are then compared to identify potential data gaps in ESCO .

The findings demonstrate that text mining applied on scientific literature to extract technology trends, can help policy makers to provide more up-to-date labour market intelligence.

Chiarello, F., Fantoni, G., Hogarth, T., Giordano, V., Baltina, L., & Spada, I. (2021). Towards ESCO 4.0–Is the European classification of skills in line with Industry 4.0? A text mining approach. Technological Forecasting and Social Change173, 121177.

ARTICLE Twenty years of gender equality research: A scoping review based on a new semantic indicator’

  • Authors: Paola Belingheri, Filippo Chiarello, Andrea Fronzetti Colladon, Paola Rovelli
  • Published in: Plos one
  • Date: November 2021

Gender equality is a major problem that places women at a disadvantage thereby stymieing economic growth and societal advancement. Also Defence is impacted by this issue, as evidenced by the interest gained by the workshop  ‘Gender Equality in Aerospace and Defence’, organised by the Directorate General for Defence Industry and Space that took place last May, and we as ASSETs+ care about having an inclusive educational approach in defence. For this reason, we studied the state of the art literature on the topic.

In the last two decades, extensive research has been conducted on gender related issues, studying both their antecedents and consequences. However, existing literature reviews fail to provide a comprehensive and clear picture of what has been studied so far, which could guide scholars in their future research.

This paper offers a scoping review of a large portion of the research that has been published over the last 22 years, on gender equality and related issues, with a specific focus on business and economics studies. Combining innovative methods drawn from both network analysis and text mining, it provides a synthesis of 15,465 scientific articles.

The authors identify 27 main research topics, we measure their relevance from a semantic point of view and the relationships among them, highlighting the importance of each topic in the overall gender discourse. Also find that prominent research topics mostly relate to women in the workforce–e.g., concerning compensation, role, education, decision-making and career progression. However, some of them are losing momentum, and some other research trends–for example related to female entrepreneurship, leadership and participation in the board of directors–are on the rise.

Besides introducing a novel methodology to review broad literature streams, our paper offers a map of the main gender-research trends and presents the most popular and the emerging themes, as well as their intersections, outlining important avenues for future research.

In the future, we aim at focusing gender studies also in the defence sector, to help attract talents independently from their gender.

Belingheri, P., Chiarello, F., Fronzetti Colladon, A., & Rovelli, P. (2021). Twenty years of gender equality research: A scoping review based on a new semantic indicator. Plos one16(9), e0256474.

SCIENTIFIC PAPER Selección de competencias en ciberseguridad para la formación en la industria de defensa

  • Authors: Estepa, R., Fuentes, J. M. D., González-Manzano, L., Estepa, A., Domínguez, J., & Segovia-Vargas, D.
  • Published in: Actas VI Jornadas Nacionales de Investigación en Ciberseguridad (JNIC2021)
  • Date: June 2021

En el contexto de la defensa escasean los profesionales capacitados en ciberseguridad, siendo aconsejable impulsar programas de formación específicos para la industria de este sector. Este es uno de los objetivos del proyecto europeo ASSETS+.

En este trabajo presentamos uno de sus resultados preliminares: una lista de competencias que los profesionales de ciberseguridad deberían poseer para satisfacer las necesidades formativas de la industria de defensa europea.

Para la realización de este listado, se ha seguido una metodología basada en dos fases. En primer lugar, se identifican aquellas tecnologías de ciberseguridad útiles para el sector de defensa mediante el análisis de múltiples fuentes de datos. En segundo lugar, se realiza una adaptación del listado de competencias en ciberseguridad del NIST (NICE) a aquellas aplicables a los perfiles de trabajo en la industria de la defensa, así como a las tecnologías identificadas en la fase 1.

El resultado es una relación de competencias de tipo transversal, técnicas o exclusivas del sector de defensa que debería ser central en el diseño de futuros cursos de formación especializados. Index Terms- formación ciberseguridad, competencias ciberseguridad, ciberseguridad en defensa.

Estepa, R., Fuentes, J. M. D., González-Manzano, L., Estepa, A., Domínguez, J., & Segovia-Vargas, D. Selección de competencias en ciberseguridad para la formación en la industria de defensa. VI Jornadas Nacionales de Investigación en Ciberseguridad (JNIC) 2021.