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Groundbreaking partnership between Government and tech start-ups to develop world-leading cyber security technology

Tie-up marks the first step in the development of two world-class cyber innovation centres to receive £50m over five years to help keep the nation secure. 

  • Accelerator is a first for Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Wayra UK and GCHQ, the UK’s signals intelligence and cyber security agency

  • Will be huge boost to rapidly growing cyber security sector worth almost £22 billion to the UK economy

  • Call for start-ups to apply is now open

A groundbreaking partnership between DCMS, GCHQ and the nation’s top tech start-ups to develop new technologies aimed at protecting the UK from cyber attacks has been announced.

Wayra UK, part of Telefónica Open Future, has been chosen to run a new cyber accelerator facility with the aim of helping UK start-ups grow and take the lead in producing the next generation of cyber security systems.

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

It will see start-ups gaining access to GCHQ’s world-class personnel and technological expertise to allow them to expand capability, improve ideas and devise cutting-edge products to outpace current and emerging threats.

The facility will also fast-track new firms into the booming cyber security sector which contributed £1.8 billion in exports to the UK economy last year and grew from £17.6 billion in 2014 to almost £22 billion 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 due to open around the turn of the year. A second innovation centre will open in London in 2017. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is contributing £50m over the next five years to deliver the two innovation centres.

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, 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.

David Plumb, Digital Director at O2, said:

This is an excellent partnership and great opportunity for all of us to work together to not only support the UK economy but also encourage businesses to take a real interest and invest further in cyber-security. We’re devoted to ensuring our customers’ lives are made easy and security is a priority here.

We’re pleased to see government investment in security, UK business nurturing and the level of expertise being shared through this partnership and I’m looking forward to seeing the benefits realised for customers.

Notes to editors

  • Wayra UK will deliver the first stage of the accelerator programme.

  • Start-ups can apply via (page went live at 00:01 on Friday 23st September 2016). The closing date for entries is Monday 17th October 2016. Successful start-ups will begin work in the accelerator in early 2017.

  • The accelerator programme 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 a physical space to work in. Members will also have the opportunity to learn first-hand about cyber security best practices and gain Cyber Essential accreditation.

  • The programme will include insights to Government procurement processes, IP management, export controls and information assurance architecture. There will be a highly prized opportunity of gaining a fast-track cyber product assessment currently unavailable elsewhere and the opportunity 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.

Wayra UK UK gives funding, acceleration and pre-acceleration services to start-ups to help promote growth, improve society and increase innovation. These include offering co-working spaces, connectivity services and mentoring. It has partnered with organisations including Velocity Health with Merck Sharp & Dohme Limited (MSD) and ASOS.

Since its launch in 2012, Wayra UK start-ups have raised almost £75 million in third-party investment.

Wayra UK works alongside regional partners to encourage growth and entrepreneurship. In Manchester start-ups can join Wayra North, a digital enterprise hub and pre-acceleration programme supported by Hack Oldham and Oldham Council. In Birmingham start-ups can use a space at Wayra Midlands at the Serendip® Smart City Incubator.

Telefónica Open Futureónica Open Future is a global programme designed to connect entrepreneurs, startups, investors and public and private partners around the world to capture innovation and business opportunities. Its goal is to support talent at all stages of growth through a comprehensive model for acceleration that is designed to connect talent with organisations, investors and companies.

The programme incorporates all the Telefónica Group’s open innovation, entrepreneurship and investment initiatives (Think Big, Talentum, Crowdworking, Wayra, Amérigo and Telefónica Ventures) through a global network that is open to participation by external partners that wish to develop their own entrepreneurial and investment strategies. To date, more than 49,000 proposals have been analysed, with a portfolio of 1,360 startups; it is in 17 countries and 384 million euros has been committed to investment by Telefónica and its partners.


Government Communications Headquarters is one of the three UK Intelligence and Security Agencies, along with MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). GCHQ works to protect the UK and its citizens from a range of threats to national security, including terrorism, serious and organised crime, and cyber-attack.

From October 2016, the new National Cyber Security Centre will lead the UK’s national cyber security effort. The NCSC will simplify the current cyber security landscape by bringing together CESG, CPNI, CCA and CERT UK and establish a ‘one stop shop’ for cyber security in the UK. It will:* Reduce the cyber security risk to the UK;* Respond effectively to cyber incidents;* Understand the UK’s cyber security environment, sharing knowledge, addressing systemic vulnerabilities; and* Nurture the UK’s cyber security capability, providing leadership on key national cyber security issues.


The UK Cyber Security Strategy 2011-2016, Annual Report (April 2016)

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