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Texas A&M at Qatar to lead $3.2 million project on cybersecurity for the smart grid

Published Jul 28, 2020

An international research collaboration between academia and industry led by Texas A&M University at Qatar has received a $3.2 million grant from the Qatar National Research Foundation (QNRF) for a cluster project for smart grid cybersecurity infrastructure in Qatar, with the ultimate goal of providing more safer, more reliable energy supply for the country.  

Led by Dr. Haitham Abu-Rub, professor in Texas A&M at Qatar’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Program and managing director of the TEES Smart Grid Center extension in Qatar, the interdisciplinary team includes researchers from Qatar University, Hamad Bin Khalifa University, the Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute, and the Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation, KAHRAMAA. International collaborators include faculty from Texas A&M’s main campus in College Station, Texas (USA) and Kansas State University (USA). Additional support will come from further support form KAHRAMAA, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, Qatar Mobility Innovations Center and some companies in industry in the United States (AllCell and Typhoon HIL). 

The project, NPRP12C-0814-190012 “Multi-layer Cybersecurity and Situational Awareness to Enhance Resiliency in Qatar’s Power Grid,” was awarded as part of QNRF’s National Priorities Research Program-Cluster track for a duration of four years. The Cluster track aims to develop solutions to real-world challenges in Qatar that produce tangible societal and economic impact. Through this Cluster program, QNRF supports multi-institutional and interdisciplinary research to solve significant and complex problems that need an unconventional approach.  

Abu-Rub said that the outcomes of this cluster project will help to create a cyber-physical security infrastructure for Qatar’s smart grid while addressing the challenges associated with cyber-physical security and situational awareness of Qatar’s power grid. In short, and in addition to the huge educational benefits, the research will help protect Qatar’s smart grid and critical infrastructures from cyberattacks, damage and energy disruption, thereby ensuring the energy security of Qatar’s critical infrastructure. 

The collaborators said that residential, commercial, institutional and industrial sectors throughout Qatar will benefit from this research. All these sectors need an electric energy supply with improved reliability and enhanced resiliency from Qatar’s power grid. Various stakeholders will gain huge benefits from the acquired knowledge, skill and transfer technologies that will be created during the project. This project can result in a significant impact on Qatar’s national electric grid security and economic savings.

H.E. Eng. Essa Bin Hilal Al-Kuwari, KAHRAMAA President said, “As Qatar’s electric grid keeps expanding and transforming to smart grid, the probability of cyber-attack increases day by day. Creating a cyber-physical security smart grid infrastructure is a top priority for Qatar and surely worldwide. KAHRAMAA has always had active collaboration with Texas A&M at Qatar and other local universities and research centers. Being a strategic partner in the Smart Grid Center at Texas A&M at Qatar provides a significant opportunity in supporting and partnering in such collaborative research.” 

Dr. Abdul Sattar Al-Taie, QNRF Executive Director, said, “I extend my sincere congratulations to the awarded team. The proposed research has exceptional merit and the potential to significantly advance the current body of knowledge in cybersecurity and energy. In turn, the findings will position Qatar as an international leader in terms of innovation in these critical areas. I also foresee the research outcomes leading to meaningful IP opportunities and contributing to economic development and diversification in Qatar."

Dr. Saif Al-Kuwari, principal investigator from Hamad Bin Khalifa University, said, "This project will create unique opportunities on different level. Academically, it will facilitate interdisciplinary research collaboration. Practically, it will innovate solutions for real-world problems and connect academia with industry. Nationally, it is addressing genuine local challenges related to smart grid cybersecurity infrastructure" 

Texas A&M at Qatar dean Dr. César Octavio Malavé said such an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research collaboration is at the heart of the branch campus’s vision to be an essential resource to the State of Qatar.

“Part of our mission is to generate new knowledge and intellectual capital through innovative research and collaborative partnerships that yield sustainable impact,” Malavé said. “Texas A&M has the ability to leverage our expertise and connections through our main campus and research agencies to be able to conduct large-scale, multidisciplinary research on real-world challenges for the benefit of the State of Qatar. We are grateful to the Qatar National Research Foundation for believing in our capabilities and having the vision to support our work, and to our partners in academia, industry and government for working with us to answer the call to secure Qatar’s energy future.”