This military-grade cybersecurity center in Broward aims to keep companies safe and bring jobs to South Florida

As companies continue to shift toward digital-first work environments, the security of virtual assets is increasingly important. A Cisco report found that 61% of respondents experienced a 25% or more increase in cyber threats since the beginning of the pandemic. A further 57% said that they expect to increase their investments into cybersecurity.

It is upon this backdrop that the new Alan B. Levan | NSU Broward Center of Innovation is launching its roster of cybersecurity programming. The Levan Center is a public-private partnership between Broward County and Nova Southeastern University that aims to foster South Florida’s innovation ecosystem through initiatives related to economic and educational development.

At the core of the Levan Center’s cybersecurity initiatives is its training range: a 1,500-square-foot, controlled-access facility filled to the brim with military grade technology. It has 12 training stations complete with three monitors each for a total of 24 participants, plus 10 observation seats and room for an instructor.

One of the primary uses of the range is for training sessions, including but not limited to NSU’s own cybersecurity-focused degree programs. Corporate clients can also use the range to run simulations, assess cybersecurity professionals, and undertake so-called ‘skunk works,’ or advanced and classified projects. The Levan Center is housed in a category five hurricane proof building equipped with two industrial-sized power generators. That makes it a contender for organizations that need a backup, off site, or mock security operations center. Additionally, the National Security Agency has validated NSU as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity – a designation that required a rigorous vetting process.

Dr. John Wensveen, Chief Innovation Officer at NSU and Executive Director of the Levan Center, told Refresh Miami that the goal is to become “the ‘go to’ cybersecurity resource” in our region. The in-person nature of the facility is key, Wensveen asserted: “The advantage is that you have a controlled environment, with all of the physical resources that you need under one roof.”

He continued, “Collaboration is very key in these types of exercises because it allows human,  face-to-face interaction as if you were in a real life operations room.”

Dr. John Wensveen, Chief Innovation Officer at NSU

Wensveen explained that the cybersecurity programming was designed with the needs of our community in mind. “We’re really interested in supporting three different pillars: developing new skills, upskilling, and reskilling.” Employment opportunities abound in the cybersecurity space, with more than 2,000 cybersecurity job vacancies in the Department of Homeland Security alone.

When Wensveen and team were developing the cybersecurity initiatives, he said that they looked at emerging trends and considered how to fill in the gaps. The list of emerging areas in cyberspace is, unfortunately, extensive: everything from preventing ransomware attacks and threats to connected vehicles, to securing new technologies like the Internet of Things, 5G, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence. Opportunity abounds, and the Levan Center is helping train South Floridians to address current and future cybersecurity threats. Miami Dade College also houses a cybersecurity training center, the Cybersecurity Center of the Americas that opened in 2018. 

NSU’s innovation hub plans to host a variety of cyber-related events, including panel discussions, training programs, executive briefings, and competitions. “Beyond that,” said Wensveen, “it’s really up to the community to determine how they could utilize it” based on the capabilities the Levan Center can provide. Local organizations can rent out the cybersecurity training range and also leverage the Levan Center’s in-house instructors, if they would like.

Based on the NSU campus in Davie, the recently opened Levan Center aims to be a hub for tech innovation in South Florida and an economic development engine for our region. The Levan Center has ample co-working space and programming to help startups get off the ground. Notably, it features a space tech program led by Dr. Andrew Aldrin, aerospace expert and son of moon-walking astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Interested in getting involved in the Levan Center’s activities? Check out its website or email [email protected].


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Riley Kaminer