Spy agency seeks more startups for its security accelerator

After the success of its first accelerator, GCHQ wants to work with startups again -- and this time it'll be for nine months.

Startups have the opportunity to work alongside GCHQ personnel in Cheltenham.

Image: GCHQ

Cybersecurity startups have another chance to work with British intelligence services, as GCHQ has launched a second version of its cybersecurity accelerator scheme -- and this time successful applicants will be working alongside the spy agency for nine months rather than just three.

The first GCHQ accelerator took place this year, with seven selected security startups taking part in a three-month development programme inside offices near GCHQ headquarters in Cheltenham -- and a London centre will also be opening towards the end of this year. Those involved had access to GCHQ personnel, mentoring, and contact with investors.

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The success of the scheme has now led to an expanded programme which will give startups nine months to work alongside technological experts from across GCHQ, including the National Cyber Security Centre, with more time to expand their ideas and build security products to aid the UK's fight against cybercrime and foreign cyber threats.

"After the successful first phase of the programme, we believe we can develop the start-ups even further via a longer programme, ensuring the companies gain maximum advantage of this opportunity," a spokesperson from Wayra UK, the startup accelerator programme which is once again working alongside GCHQ on the scheme, said.

Startups have until 9 August to apply to be part of the scheme which will begin in October 2017. The startups will be chosen by an expert panel of GCHQ, NCSC, Wayra, and Telefónica staff, alongside a panel of investors.

"Cyber Accelerator represents a massive opportunity to collaborate with cutting-edge companies to drive forward the government's ambitious programme of innovation that is helping to protect the UK from evolving cyber threats," said Chris Ensor, NCSC deputy director of cyber skills and growth.

Successful applicants will be provided with a £25,000 grant and a physical space to work in. In addition to mentoring from GCHQ personnel, the startups involved will gain access to advice on business development, as well as expertise from government, academia, and industry.

The seven startups selected to be a part of the first incarnation of the scheme were CounterCraft, CyberOwl, CyberSmart, Elemendar, Spherical Defence, StatusToday, and Verimuchme. To date, they've raised more than £2.7m in investment, including follow-on contracts with major companies.

Both GCHQ and Wayra are keen to improve on the initial success of the first accelerator. "Improving cyber security is one of the most important challenges that we face, whether as large corporates, SMEs or individual citizens," said Gary Stewart, Director of Wayra UK.

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