Small companies are the key to security innovation

The Global Security Challenge finals which took place at London Business School last week were a revelation to anyone who believes that security innovation is dead. There’s certainly little imagination and innovation to be seen in the products emerging from big vendors and research establishments. But many breakthroughs are initially developed by clever individuals or small start-up companies.

So it’s no surprise to find an impressive range of unique and imaginative new security solutions in the Global Security Challenge finals, which is specifically aimed at small enterprises. Many were game-changing developments, such as a technology that can detect liquid explosives in suitcases, a new form of lightweight body armor that can survive point-blank grenade attacks, and a video camera that takes such high resolution pictures that you don’t need an optical zoom capability. The cyber security finalists were also impressive, including two technologies that offer a step change in real-time vulnerability management, using very different approaches. (I’ll cover these in a later posting.)

So if this initiative is delivering the new security solutions we need, what else is needed? The answer is a lot more of the same. We need more attention and support for the SME and start-up sectors. Many of the finalists in the Global Security Challenge have less than half a dozen staff and exist primarily on research awards and prizes. Yet they have also managed to develop complete products and gain real customers. We need more pump-priming investment to stimulate these sectors.