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GCHQ and HOST launch innovation programme in North West

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

GCHQ, the UK’s intelligence and cyber agency, is looking for five ambitious businesses to join its pioneering innovation programme to apply trailblazing technologies to national security challenges.

The GCHQ Innovation Co-Lab, developed in partnership with HOST, the Home of Skills & Technology, is aimed at UK-based digital companies or a consortium of companies with innovative approaches to technology and analytics, or a vision to reach alternative markets for their products or service.

Businesses can apply to take part in specific challenges as part of the Co-Lab. These include:

  • Dealing with uncertainty: Products and services which utilise open-source information to help people make sense of current events and plan for the future; and
  • Re-imagining morse code: Technology that will help improve automated translation and transcriptions, supported by advances in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning – re-thinking traditional morse code technology for the future.

Another challenge is a wild card option, where businesses will have the rare opportunity to showcase to GCHQ an innovative and unique approach to technology that helps shape the future for the better.

While applications are open to all, they are particularly welcome from entrepreneurs in the North West, who are from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds.

Kate, GCHQ, Head of Research and Engineering in Manchester, said: “We’re excited to be collaborating with the thriving technology ecosystem in Greater Manchester, connecting diverse entrepreneurs and creative technologists with the mission of GCHQ to bring fresh perspectives to our challenges.”

Mo Isap, CEO of IN4.0 Group, operator of HOST, said: “As a dedicated innovation partner of GCHQ, we are privileged to continue to support founders with this specialist programme, ensuring innovation is inclusive and accessible for businesses and individuals across the region and the UK.

“The Co-Lab offers emerging technology businesses access to technologists and innovators from GCHQ as well as valuable innovation and business growth support from the HOST community and its industry partners.”

The programme will be delivered in a hybrid style, both in-person and virtually over five months with companies benefitting from collaboration with technologists and innovators from GCHQ and invaluable mentoring from innovation hub HOST and its investor networks.

This follows two previously successful innovation programmes that involved participants such as Bellrock Technology, which was included in the G-Cloud 12 framework as a data analytics supplier for the UK government. As well as Journey Protector, a developer of technology that helps prevent cargo theft and human trafficking in the logistics industry, led by CEO Anne Lawlor, which has secured significant funding since completing the programme.

The deadline for applications is 13 September, with successful applicants being announced by the end of October, and the programme beginning in November. For further information, visit:https://www.hostsalford.com/programmes/the-gchq-innovation-co-lab-2021/

New security centre to help SMEs prevent cyber attacks

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

HOST, the Home of Skills & Technology at Media City, in partnership with Salford City Council is bringing to market a unique Security Operations Centre (SOC), which will offer an affordable cyber security subscription-based support service to SMEs innovating and adopting digital and cloud technologies.  

As part of this, it is partnering with the Cyber Resilience Centre for Greater Manchester (CRCGM) to offer Cyber MOTs, which will include security awareness training and a cyber security assessment.

The Cyber MOTs will be fully funded and initially available to businesses based in Salford. The package will also offer exclusive membership to businesses based or located near Media City. 

The Cyber MOTs will help scaling businesses and their teams to understand the risks of cyber crime and identify and prevent potential security issues through a comprehensive assessment, with recommendations on how to integrate security best practice. The HOST SOC is also partnering with Siemens to support manufacturing and engineering businesses with an Industrial Cyber MOT, offered exclusively to SME manufacturers that are members of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce as part of their membership benefits. 

This follows the UK government’s recent Cyber Security Breaches Survey, which found that nearly four in 10 businesses (39 per cent) have reported a cyber attack, while the average cost to companies that have been hit by cyber attacks in the last 12 months is estimated to be £8,460.

All businesses are at risk of hidden cyber security breaches and with organisations finding it harder to monitor employees working from home during the pandemic, they may be less aware of the attacks their staff are facing.

In response to this demand, HOST is developing a state-of-the-art Innovation Lab, which will house the 24/7 SecurityOperations Centre (SOC) and Network Operations Centre (NOC) cyber support as a service. The centre will provide public sector organisations, enterprises and SMEs with a secure, tailored and scalable cyber solution.

HOST has also partnered with Lancaster University to develop collaborative activities to accelerate research, development and innovation with start-ups and SMEs through Innovate UK programmes such as the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) scheme.

The HOST SOC is unique as it comprises a Cyber Innovation Exchange, an open-source technology exchange that will also include a Cyber Innovation Sandbox, allowing for HOST’s incubated start-ups to accelerate and validate their IP across a real-world commercial environment. In the coming months, HOST will start to recruit up to 10 start-ups and scale-ups, looking to rapidly develop and commercialise disruptive cyber security solutions with AI and machine learning capabilities. 

“I’m excited to work with HOST to shape an environment that puts innovation at the heart of acceleration. By bringing together business growth support, labs, testing and validation environments, access to training data along with input and oversight from leading academics and commercial specialists, we will offer first-rate support for the next generation of intelligent cyber solutions,” said Saskia Coplans, Director of Innovation for cyber, data science and AI at HOST.

The HOST SOC and Cyber Innovation Exchange working with GCHQ and leading technology partners such as Microsoft, will further enhance Greater Manchester’s capability of making the UK a world leading security power through scalable innovation.

HOST, operated by IN4.0 Group, recently announced its partnership with The Raytheon Cyber Academy operating within the Skills City campus. HOST will also deliver the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) CyberFirst programme, inspiring girls at secondary schools to pursue careers in STEM. HOST also provides an 8-week placement for CyberFirst bursary students. 

Andy Beaden (above, left), co-founder of IN4.0 Group, said: “We are delighted to be working in collaboration with the Cyber Resilience Centre for Greater Manchester to help businesses in the region gain confidence in knowing that their operations have been thoroughly assessed for cyber threats, so they can take the appropriate actions to secure their business. Our Security Operations Centre is a perfect illustration of how public and private partnerships can forge a formidable infrastructure to support organisations to drive innovation and productivity, creating highly skilled jobs for local people.”  

Neil Jones, Director of the Cyber Resilience Centre for Greater Manchester, said “The Cyber Resilience Centre is excited to be working with HOST to deliver fully funded Cyber MOTs to help protect our business community from cybercrime. The cybercrime threat to SMEs has never been greater, with cybercriminals taking advantage of the pandemic to carry out damaging attacks on businesses of all sizes as they increasingly work online. Working in partnership is in our DNA and helps us provide trusted, government-backed, easily accessible and practical support where it’s most needed.”

Steven Fry (above, right), Chief Digital Officer at Salford City Council, said: “I am absolutely delighted that we have brought this collective together at HOST Salford to bring our knowledge and expertise to Salford businesses, creating new jobs and solutions to help shape the future of the country’s cyber defence.”

The CRCGM is a not-for-profit joint venture between Greater Manchester Police and Manchester Digital that helps to support and protect small businesses from the threat of cybercrime, which is estimated to cost the local economy over £860 million a year.