Two new cyber security startup accelerators are to be launched with support from the government, GCHQ, and O2’s Wayra division to find firms with ideas to protect the nation from the increasing number of cyber attacks.
The initiative is being championed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and £50m will be set aside over the next five years to establish two innovation accelerator centres.
The first will be located in Cheltenham and is expected to open at the beginning of 2017. A second centre will open in London later in 2017. Both will be run by Wayra, which has been involved for several years in helping startups to develop ideas.
Firms interested in taking part can now register to be included in the official GCHQ Cyber Accelerator via the Wayra website. Applications are open until 17 October. Successful startups will join the accelerator in early 2017.
"We are looking for companies who are using novel techniques to solve real, existing cyber security problems, and digital companies whose products could be applied in a cyber security context," the site said.
"In addition, we would be interested in next-generation solutions that are faster, better and cheaper than those which already exist and which lower the bar to entry."
Notably, firms chosen to be part of the accelerator will also gain access to GCHQ staff and technology to understand the sort of threats they face, and to expand capability, improve ideas and devise cutting-edge products to outpace current and emerging threats.
Chris Ensor, deputy director for cyber skills and growth at GCHQ, explained that working in this open way is vital for the future security of the UK.
“Cyber security is a team sport and, as threats become more prolific and more complex, we should be sharing our experiences and views because there’s so much we can learn from each other,” he said.
“Combining the knowledge and experience of GCHQ staff with some of the country’s newest startups and most creative entrepreneurs is a really powerful combination that will deliver benefits to the cyber security of the UK.”
The threat to the UK from cyber attacks is growing at an alarming rate. Ciaran Martin, CEO of the newly established National Cyber Security Centre, revealed recently that the UK government logs over 200 "national security-level cyber incidents" every month.
Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, added that the new centres demonstrate the seriousness with which the government takes the issue of cyber security.
“Our two new Cyber Innovation Centres will bring together government, academic and business expertise, and will be invaluable in helping support startup companies and develop world-class cyber technology,” he said.
Despite this, the government has been criticised for its own cyber security strategies. A recent National Audit Office report slammed Whitehall for not making it clear to different departments where responsibility for security lies.
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