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Cyber security startups urged to join GCHQ Cyber Accelerator

The UK government has announced a second cyber accelerator programme aimed at helping UK startups take the lead in producing the next generation of cyber security systems

Cutting-edge cyber security entrepreneurs and startup firms can apply to join the second programme in the GCHQ Cyber Accelerator, which will be extended from three to nine months.

In March 2017, seven cyber security startups graduated from the first accelerator programme, aimed at boosting initial sales and business development and securing follow-on third-party investment.

Participants in the programme received support to help them scale all aspects of their businesses, including high-quality mentoring and business services, office space and access to GCHQ and Telefónica’s personnel and technical expertise.

Results included security contracts with government agencies and projects with major corporations, as well as developing products and embarking on funding rounds.

The expanded programme will give startups more time with the world-class personnel and technological expertise of staff from across GCHQ, including the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), enabling them to expand their capability, improve their ideas and devise cutting-edge products.

The accelerator is part of government efforts to boost the UK’s £22bn cyber security sector, which currently contributes about £2bn a year in exports to the UK economy. It is also the first step in delivering the Cheltenham Innovation Centre, the first of two planned innovation centres, with the second set to open in London in 2017.

The programme will again be delivered by Wayra UK, part of Telefónica Open Future, in collaboration with GCHQ, the NCSC and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to help new firms turn their ideas into commercial products and services and contribute to the booming UK cyber security sector.

Participants in the accelerator programme will have the opportunity to learn first-hand about cyber security best practices and gain Cyber Essentials accreditation.

The programme will include insights into government procurement processes, IP management, export controls and information assurance architecture. There will also be opportunities to pitch products and services to government departments, and GCHQ will also offer access to its national and international commercial partners across the cyber security sector.

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Digital minister Matt Hancock said the government is working hard to make the UK the best place to start and grow a digital business and the safest place to be online.

“The GCHQ Cyber Accelerator is a vital part of this work and has already helped some of the most innovative cyber security startups develop cutting-edge new products and services,” he said. “I am pleased to announce that the programme is being extended and encourage the nation’s talented entrepreneurs to apply.”

According to the government, the seven startups from the first accelerator programme have collectively raised more than £2.7m in investment so far, including follow-on contracts with major companies such as Cisco.

The firms that took part were CounterCraft, CyberOwl, CyberSmart, Elemendar, Spherical Defence, StatusToday and Verimuchme.

Chris Ensor, NCSC deputy director of cyber skills and growth, said the accelerator represents a “massive opportunity” to collaborate with cutting-edge companies to drive forward the government’s “ambitious programme of innovation”, which is helping to protect the UK from evolving cyber threats.

Gary Stewart, director of Wayra UK, said improving cyber security is one of the most important challenges faced by large corporates, small and medium-sized enterprises and individual citizens.

“We are eager to accelerate the growth of the next generation of cyber security startups in partnership with GCHQ, DCMS and Telefónica,” said Stewart. “The goal is that the startups will scale up and we will all be more secure online.”

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