Cybersecurity accelerator gives startups the chance to work with GCHQ spy agency

A new government scheme designed to help protect the UK from cyberattacks has been launched.

Cybersecurity startups are being given the opportunity to work with experts from GCHQ.

Image: Crown Copyright

Some of the UK's top security startups are being invited to work with GCHQ in an effort to help protect the country from hackers and cyberattacks.

The scheme forms part of the government's £1.9bn National Cyber Security Programme and sees IT security companies invited to work inside a new accelerator facility with the aim of developing "the next generation of cybersecurity systems".

The government has previously detailed how it's to spend £40m on a new Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) in an effort to strengthen the UK's defences against cyber threats.

However, the latest announcement of the scheme comes after it was revealed that the government is hit by 9,000 security breaches a year -- so perhaps the startups could teach the government a thing or two about security as well as learning from GCHQ.

Startups taking part in the accelerator will be provided with the opportunity to work with GCHQ personnel and the ability to draw on their expertise to help build new security products, designed with the intention of being able to stay ahead of emerging threats.

Those taking part in the scheme will be provided a financial grant as well as an office space to work in. Startups can apply to take part in the scheme now and have until October 17 to enter.

Successful startups could also be fast-tracked into what the government describes as the UK's "booming" cybersecurity sector, which contributed £1.8bn in exports to the UK economy last year -- although with much of the tech industry unsure about what the future holds following the Brexit vote.

The first of two accelerators will be based at a new innovation centre in Cheltenham, near GCHQ headquarters, and is set to open at the start of next year. A second innovation centre will be opened in London during 2017, with funding for both being provided by a £50m investment by the Department for Culture, Media, and Sport over the next five years.

"We are making progress in our ambitious programme to support innovation in cybersecurity, grow the UK's thriving sector and protect Britain from cyberattacks 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," said minister of state for digital and culture Matt Hancock.

The government has chosen Telefonica's startup accelerator Wayra to run the new scheme for cybersecurity startups.

"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," says Gary Stewart, director at Wayra UK and Telefonica Open Future.

READ MORE ON CYBERSECURITY