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GCHQ feeds first crop of infosec startups to Cyber Accelerator

Tech 'crèche' will nurture firms to compete on the world stage

The first infosec startups selected for the GCHQ Cyber Accelerator have been unveiled.

The accelerator, which officially launches in Cheltenham later today, is part of a UK government-funded Cyber Innovation Centre. The tech crèche is designed to nurture information security startups to the point where they can compete on the world stage, boosting British exports in the process.

The seven early stage startups selected will receive benefits including access to technological and security expertise, networks, office space and mentoring during a three-month development programme. Contact with an extensive investor network and access to GCHQ's personnel and technical expertise form part of the package.

The "magnificent seven" companies selected to join the programme include:

  • CounterCraft, which has developed a cyber-security deception platform, designed to fool hackers with decoy computers, false data and fake identities
  • Cyberowl, an early warning system for cyber attacks
  • Cybersmart, a platform that automates implementation, certification and compliance with cyber-security standards
  • FutureScaper, a collective intelligence platform that provides data visualisations that gives security analysts a better handle on security threats
  • Spherical Defence, an intrusion detection system geared to the needs of the banking sector and featuring deep-learning technology
  • StatusToday, providers of technology designed to detect insider attacks and inadvertent mistakes
  • Verimuchme, a digital wallet and exchange platform

The accelerator is a partnership between GCHQ, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), and Wayra UK, the corporate accelerator that is part of the global Telefónica Open Future_ network.

The cyber-security sector contributes around £2bn a year in exports to the UK economy, according to backers of the new programme.

The accelerator forms part of the Cheltenham Innovation Centre, the first of two innovation centres created as part of the government's National Cyber Security Programme. A second innovation centre will open in London later this year. DCMS is contributing up to £50m over the next five years to deliver the two innovation centres.

Minister of State for Digital and Culture Matt Hancock MP said: "I congratulate all the companies selected to join the new accelerator facility which is now open for business. This is an important step in delivering our National Cyber Security Strategy, and supported by £1.9bn transformative investment in cyber security. Based in Cheltenham, the accelerator will help UK entrepreneurs create cutting-edge technology to better protect the nation from cyber attacks and make going online safer for all."

Government ministers backed plans for GCHQ to become an incubator for the next generation of infosec firms, first floated two years ago. The idea is inspired, in part, by the production line of successful cyber-security firms set up by alumni from Unit 8200, Israel's military intelligence unit.

They have gone on to found Check Point, Palo Alto Networks, and numerous successful security firms. These companies went through their incubator phase while their future founders were serving compulsory military service, which even taken alone is a big difference from the UK model.

The cyber-security company production line in Israel is 30 years old and therefore well established, not least thanks to links with US companies, investors and entrepreneurs. Team8, a cyber-security foundry created by members Unit 8200, this week announced a strategic funding round with investments from Microsoft and Qualcomm, among others. Team8 has raised $92m to date from previous investors including AT&T, Accenture and Eric Schmidt's Innovation Endeavors.

This is all a long way from a three-month boot camp close to GCHQ but, then again, you have to start somewhere, assuming you agree that government has a role in backing this sort of investment, which is open to debate. ®

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