The government is setting up a new hub for Britain’s cybersecurity startups next to spy agency GCHQ in Cheltenham as part of its National Cyber Security Plan, which aims to counter terrorist groups like ISIS (also known as Islamic State) and other online criminals.
The Cyber Innovation Centre, announced by Chancellor George Osborne today during a speech at GCHQ — Britain’s “listening post” — will house and support security-focused startups “in their early months.”
Osborne believes the centre is necessary if the UK is to build companies that can help protect the public, the government and private sector organisations.
A second Cyber Innovation Centre will also be opened somewhere else in the country.
Business Insider has contacted the Treasury for clarification on when the centres will open, how much they will cost and how many startups they will support. We will update this article accordingly when we hear back.
“As we build our resilience to cyber attack, so too we will keep building our resilience to terrorist attacks — in all their evil and murderous forms,” said Osborne. This requires effort from government and startups, as well as universities, agencies and allies, he continued.
Osborne revealed UK intelligence agencies are now developing techniques that will allow them to launch “offensive” cyber attacks on terrorists for the first time, while The Telegraph suggests that UK spies will be permitted to launch cyber attacks on “individual hackers, criminal gangs and rogue states as well as jihadists.”
Osborne said the decision to house one of the Cyber Innovation Centres in Cheltenham reflects the area’s “extraordinary talent.”
He added: “I have talked before about an arc of cyber excellence — stretching from this building [GCHQ], through Bristol and Bath to Exeter — to make the South West a world leader in cyber security.”
In order to help Britain become a world leader in cybersecurity, Osborne said that the UK needs to create an ecosystem “in which our best people move in and out” of institutions like GCHQ. How this will work in practice is currently unclear.
He said such an ecosystem would ensure the best minds and deepest expertise are brought into the private sector, and the latest innovation back into government.
During his speech, Osborne mentioned “excellent” British cyber companies like GlassWall, Garrison, Digital Shadows, and Titania, all of which were in the audience.
The Chancellor also said government will support UK startups by purchasing products and services from them, possibly shunning larger corporates like Microsoft and Accenture in the process.
He said the government will create a new £165 million Defence and Cyber Innovation Fund to “support innovative procurement” across both defence and cyber security.
“Government can itself provide a huge boost for British cyber startups, if it can be smart enough to marshal its procurement in a coherent way,” he continued. “This should be a win-win — our cyber startups need endorsement, investment and first customers. And government, from our military and GCHQ to the Government Digital Service and the NHS, need to be able to procure excellent cyber security hardware and services.”
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