Cyber startups raised almost £500m in the first six months of 2020, which almost matched the amount of investment raised in the whole of 2019. This was no doubt influenced by an increased demand for cybersecurity services in lockdown.
Investment into startups increased by a staggering 940 per cent in the eight weeks following lockdown compared to the same quarter in 2019 – dramatically outperforming the tech sector as a whole.
But while London is often seen as the tech capital of the UK, cybersecurity success is taking place nationwide. Fifty-five per cent of the UK’s cyber startups are now based outside of London, with 21 fast-growth companies based in Yorkshire.
Leeds ranks in the top 10 local authorities for cyber startups in the UK.
One reason why Yorkshire is so well placed for the growth of the cybersecurity industry is its connection to academia.
The University of York, Leeds Beckett, The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University all offer courses in cybersecurity and the region has seen a huge increase in cybersecurity apprenticeships.
This presents a great opportunity within the region to develop homegrown talent that addresses a long-term skills shortage in the sector.
But for cybersecurity to continue on this growth trajectory, we must ensure collaboration between industry and academia across all stages of education continues and that cyber startups or university spinouts receive support at each stage of their growth journey.
This is one of the key aims of LORCA (the London Office for Rapid Cybersecurity Advancement), which is a public-private sector partnership aimed at growing the UK’s cybersecurity sector and supporting the innovations needed by industry, society and our economy.
Backed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, LORCA is delivered by the innovation centre Plexal in collaboration with the Centre for Secure Information Technologies and Deloitte.
Two of the first companies to join the programme are based in Yorkshire: Ioetec hails from Sheffield and Bob’s Business from Barnsley. Both are a testament to the cyber talent in the region.
Ioetec recently won the Digital Catapult and Siemens Future Networks Lab Challenge and Bob’s Business CEO Melanie Oldham was the co-founder and current head of the Yorkshire Cybersecurity Cluster. These clusters are particularly important for developing regional cybersecurity communities, as they encourage connections across businesses and outreach with schools through opportunities like mentoring programmes. The growth of remote working has also presented an opportunity to connect regional hubs.
For example, our member Risk Ledger was based in London but since the company started working remotely, various team members are able to continue to work from home in Yorkshire.
Heimdal Security will also be expanding to the region after coming to the UK from Copenhagen to join LORCA earlier this year.
We have an opportunity to set the direction of our national cyber ecosystem. London continues to be a brilliant place for investment and a launchpad for startups, but our regions contain growing cyber clusters that can link up with London.
Yorkshire has the capacity and the ambition to be a world leader in this field, and if we continue to inspire the younger generation and make the most of what the region has to offer, then cybersecurity has the potential to be another jewel in Yorkshire’s crown.
LORCA recently held a week-long virtual cybersecurity conference, which debated the big security issues of our day. Visit lorcalive.co.uk for more information.
By Saj Huq Director of London Office for Rapid Cybersecurity Advancement