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Tech start-ups urged to work with Wayra and GCHQ to beef up cyber response

David Bicknell Published 23 September 2016

Wayra will run new cyber accelerator programme to help start-ups develop new wave of security systems capable of foiling attacks


The government wants top tech start-ups to work with it in developing new technologies capable of protecting the UK from cyber attacks.

It has created a partnership between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) GCHQ and Wayra UK, which is part of Telefónica Open Future, with Wayra running a new cyber accelerator facility to help UK start-ups grow and take the lead in producing the next generation of cyber security systems.

The tie-up marks the first step in the development of two innovation centres as part of the government’s £1.9bn National Cyber Security Programme.

Under the scheme, start-ups will gain access to GCHQ’s personnel and technological expertise to allow them to expand capability, improve ideas and devise leading-edge products to outpace current and emerging threats.

The new facility will fast-track new firms into the cyber security sector, which contributed £1.8bn in exports to the UK economy last year and grew from £17.6bn in 2014 to almost £22bn in 2015.

Minister of State for Digital and Culture Matt Hancock MP said, “We are making progress in our ambitious programme to support innovation in cyber security, grow the UK’s thriving sector and protect Britain from cyber attacks and threats. Our two new Cyber Innovation Centres will bring together government, academic and business expertise, and will be invaluable in helping support start-up companies and develop world-class cyber technology'

The accelerator will be based at a new Cheltenham Innovation Centre and is expected to open around the turn of the year.  A second innovation centre will open in London in 2017. DCMS is contributing £50m over the next five years to help deliver the two sites.

Wayra UK will deliver the first stage of the accelerator programme, which will help start-ups boost and scale initial sales and business development with relevant partners and secure follow-on third-party investment. Start-ups will be given a grant by Wayra UK as well as somewhere to work. Members will also have the opportunity to learn first-hand about cyber security best practices and gain Cyber Essential accreditation.

Start-ups can apply via the Wayra-GCHQ website.

The closing date for entries is Monday October 17, 2016 and successful start-ups will begin work in the accelerator in early 2017.

The programme will offer insights to government procurement processes, IP management, export controls and information assurance architecture. There will be the opportunity of gaining a fast-track cyber product assessment currently unavailable elsewhere and the chance to pitch products and services to government departments including the MoD. GCHQ will also offer access to its national and international commercial partners across the cyber security sector. 

Gary Stewart, director at Wayra UK and Telefonica Open Future (UK), said, “Wayra and Telefonica Open Future are immensely proud to be working in partnership with GCHQ on bringing further growth and opportunity to the UK’s cyber security ecosystem. Our shared vision will not only safeguard the country against cyber threats but also increase opportunities for UK-based start-ups and help establish the UK as a global hub for cyber talent.”

Chris Ensor, deputy director for cyber skills and growth at GCHQ, said, “I’m really excited to be working with Wayra UK and the start-ups on what is a really novel project. Combining the knowledge and experience of GCHQ staff with some of the country’s newest start-ups and most creative entrepreneurs is really powerful combination and one I’m confident will deliver benefits to the cyber 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.”

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