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UK cyber security sector worth more than £8bn

The UK’s cyber security industry employs 43,000 full-time workers, and contributed nearly £4bn to the UK economy in 2019, according to DCMS

The UK’s cyber security industry is reaping the rewards of a three-year boom, with the number of active security firms in the UK growing by 44% to 1,200 since 2017, making total sales of £8.3bn, up 46%, and contributing £3.7bn to the economy, up 60%, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

DCMS’s UK cyber security sectoral analysis 2020 report also revealed that the security sector now employs 43,000 people, up 37%, and in 2019 alone attracted £348m of investment in early-stage companies. Industry investment has topped £1.1bn over the past four years.

“It’s great to see our cyber security sector going from strength to strength. It plays a vital role in protecting the country’s thriving digital economy and keeping people safe online,” said digital minister Matt Warman.

“We are committed to seeing it grow and are investing £1.9bn over five years through our National Cyber Security Strategy to make sure we lead the way in cyber innovation, develop and attract the best talent,” he said.

Mike Jackson, entrepreneur success director at Tech Nation, added: “These latest figures released by DCMS highlight the growing strength of Cyber Security to the UK tech sector. It’s promising to see the number of cyber security firms increasing by 44% and the positive contribution this makes to the UK economy.

“At Tech Nation, we have the privilege of working with some of the UK’s most promising cyber security scaleups, who are utilising bleeding-edge technologies to offer new ways of improving security, and protecting businesses and individuals online.”

DCMS said that alongside increased awareness of security thanks to the adoption of the European Union’s (EU’s) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the growth was being driven by a number of other factors, such as a world-leading tech sector, pro-innovation regulations, and a research and business-friendly environment.

Other sources of support from within both the private and public sectors has also played a role, including government-backed initiatives such as CyberASAP, which helps academics commercialise their work, cyber scale-up programme Tech Nation Cyber, and small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) security bootcamp Cyber101.

The report also highlighted the growing diversification of the UK’s security industry around emerging sub-sectors such as the internet of things (IoT), centralised systems to control and monitor infrastructure and facility-based processes, and post-quantum cryptography.

Poppy Gustafsson, founder of Cambridge-based Darktrace, which was highlighted in the report as one of the UK’s most successful cyber security “unicorns”, said that the immense growth of the industry reflected the scale of the security challenge confronting all organisations.

“Organisations have had no choice but to lean on AI [artificial intelligence] that fights back on their behalf in the face of fast and sophisticated threats, and it is this appetite for what we call ‘autonomous response’ technology that has driven Darktrace’s exponential growth,” she said.

“As we start to see the early signs of attackers using AI, defensive AI will be critical, and not just nice-to-have. The best algorithms will win many battles, but the cyber war will rage on.”

Read more about security startups and scaleups

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  • The government is making available more than £50m to support a range of new cyber security initiatives and collaborations, including the latest phase of its Digital Security by Design programme.
  • Lorca has named 20 scaleups to its latest cohort, which will focus attention on automation, zero trust and supply chain security.

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