Tech Nation, the UK network for digital tech entrepreneurs, is looking for 20 startups with the potential to go head-to-head with some of the biggest players in the global cyber security market.

Applications are invited for the UK’s first nationwide scaleup programme for startups in cyber security which, Tech Nation said, is designed to build on Britain’s existing heritage in this key sector and produce the global leaders of tomorrow.

Starting in April 2019, Cyber is aimed at founders and leadership teams and the six-month, non-residential programme will expose those taking part to scaleup expertise and provide them with the knowledge and connections required to effectively grow their businesses in domestic and global markets. As part of the programme, the successful startups will also take part in a showcase trip organised in conjunction with the Department of International Trade.

A cross-industry judging panel will select the 20 most promising cyber companies across the country for the programme. The panel includes Robert Coles, chief information security officer at NHS; Dr Emma Philpott, CEO at The IASME Consortium; Talal Rajab, head of programme for techUK’s Cyber and National Security programmes;  Alastair Paterson, CEO and co-founder of Digital Shadows and James Chappell co-founder and chief innovation officer of Digital Shadows.

According to government data, there are currently more than 800 cyber security businesses headquartered in the UK, with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) making up 89% of the total. In the final three months of 2018 alone, there were an estimated 30 million cyber attacks in the UK and the scope and reach of digital crime is also growing. In addition to attacks intended to steal, destroy or corrupt information on company systems, the rapid development of the Internet of Things is creating new vulnerabilities at the interface between digital and physical systems.

Against this backdrop, the goal of the Cyber programme is to boost the UK’s digital security sector by accelerating the growth of its leading startup companies.

Digital Minister Margot James said: “To stay ahead of cyber threats it is crucial we support and promote our world-class cyber security industry. Tech Nation’s new programme will not only help young businesses to expand but ensure our thriving cyber sector continues to grow.”

Gerard Grech, CEO of Tech Nation, said: “The UK is an acknowledged leader in cyber security and many successful businesses – large and small – are headquartered here. But it can be a challenging marketplace for young businesses that are seeking to expand.

“In the security field there are specific challenges to scaling, for instance startups will often be targeting corporate buyers and building trust and credibility can sometimes seem like an impossible task. Equally, partnerships with other providers can play a key role in the growth story. So regardless of the quality of the product, a company’s ability to grow will often depend on industry knowledge and connections, which is why we’re delighted to announce this latest scaling program for cyber companies to be launched by Tech Nation.”

The programme has been carefully designed with industry leaders to meet the needs of scaling cyber companies and to support founders with specific challenges for this sector. At the same time the programme is focused on the specifics of the digital security marketplace.

Key elements of the agenda include a series of four masterclasses – each taking a deep dive into core businesses issues – and multiple networking sessions designed to foster peer-to-peer learning. In addition, those joining the first cohort will have direct access to scaleup experts who will address important issues such as creating and maintaining culture; hiring and nurturing talent; developing leadership skills; raising capital; and international expansion.

Participants will also have opportunities to network externally with potential customers, partners and investors. This side of the programme is facilitated through three “cohort trips,” including one visit to a foreign market, co-organised by the Department for International Trade.

“What we have put together is a programme that will help businesses on the cohort move up to the next level,” said Ollie Bone, cyber lead at Tech Nation.

“Making the transition from startup to scaleup requires founders and managers to develop new and often challenging personal and business skills. But scaling up also involves reaching out and making connections across the security industry itself and in the customer marketplace. What we’re offering in Cyber is a real opportunity to overcome the factors that might be putting a brake on growth.”

Applications are now open and close on 4 March. Successful participants will be notified in late March. The programme kicks off in April. Anyone interested should apply here: https://technation.io/programmes/cyber-security/