In October, the UK’s Digital Minister Matt Hancock officially re-launched the UK Cyber Demonstration Centre in its new home at Level39, at the heart of London’s main financial and technology district Canary Wharf.

The centre first opened in 2015 in response to demand from a rapidly growing cybersecurity sector in the UK. Today, the industry has over 4,000 companies, mostly small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and over 40,000 employees. The estimated market size of the total cybersecurity sector in 2017 was £3.4bn, according to Statista, a steady growth from £2.4bn in 2010.

This growth marks a rapid shift in attitudes when it comes to cybersecurity, after businesses of all sizes are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers an attack might pose to their earnings and future reputation.

At the beginning of this year, the annual Crime Survey for England and Wales included cybercrime offences for the first time, and the government’s Cyber Security Breaches Survey paints a disquieting picture for those who remain unprepared.

According to the survey, the average cost of a cybersecurity breach for an SME stands at £1,570, and rises to up to £19,600 for a large business. Furthermore, 46% of respondents discovered at least one cybersecurity breach or attack in the past year, while only a third reported having a formal cybersecurity policy.

At the same time, they are learning fast: with 74% of businesses saying that cybersecurity is a high priority for their senior management, the opportunity is up for grabs for those startups that can convince clients of their impenetrable cybersecurity credentials – and the new centre aims to help them achieve just that.

Showcasing cybersecurity skills in a dedicated facility 

Available for hire for those who want to prove their knowledge to potential customers in a dedicated, well-equipped facility, the demonstration centre includes modern audio and visual facilities, as well as the latest Cisco video conferencing facilities with an option for real time streaming from remote locations. 

“It will help to have a one-stop shop for clients to be able to determine what products are on the market that address which particular business problems they are facing,” says Stephen Burke, founder and CEO of Cyber Risk Aware. “That said, it should be used in conjunction with pre-existing suppliers who will be bringing those products to market also.”

“The demonstration centre is an important component of a broader array of initiatives that are getting strong government support focused on startups and SMEs,” adds Dr Bernard Parsons, CEO of Becrypt. 

“It's a way for SMEs to gain a profile for themselves and their technologies without necessarily having the premises and infrastructure investment in place that would be required to do that if it wasn't for this kind of centre.”

“It will help to have a one-stop shop for clients to be able to determine what products are on the market that address which particular business problems they are facing.”

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Its position within an established FinTech community like Level39 is also extremely valuable, Parsons says: “There are broader benefits that the ecosystem around Level39 brings, such as the contacts, the interactions and the benefits that startups can get from being associated with that and the interactions that would then follow on.”

Burke also supports this view: “Being part of the centre will help provide some level of credibility which buyers so desperately wish to see when purchasing.  So many security products on the market are American and showcasing British and Irish cyber products is very welcome.” 

UK Minister for Digital Matt Hancock, centre, is given a tour of the centre during its launch. Images courtesy of Steve Stills Photography / Cyber Exchange

A decade of support for small cybersecurity businesses 

Right now, the cybersecurity industry is receiving a lot of attention and backing. 

Although this wasn’t the case 10 years ago, over the past decade, the support infrastructure for SMEs and startups has greatly improved thanks to a continued stream of government backing. 

The creation of the centre took place under the auspices of the Cyber Growth Partnership (CGP), a joint industry and government body funded from the £1.9bn pot dedicated by the Cabinet to defending the country’s systems and infrastructure. 

“[The CGP] is very focused on initiatives that look, from the earliest stages, for how to take intellectual property of value outside of universities, how to encourage startups and increase their capabilities through mentoring, right through to what can we do about the most promising SMEs that exist and help them scale up,” Parsons says. 

“SMEs are continuing to punch above their weight within the cybersecurity space.”

The centre’s inauguration also coincided with the launch of Cyber39, a new programme that brings together the companies which are currently developing new, emerging technologies in the field. The intention of the programme is to tackle growing cyber threats across both the public and private sectors. 

Together, these and other initiatives reinforce just how important the government see cybersecurity.

“The global cyber threat landscape is a challenging one and is not easing off anytime soon,” he adds. “But there are two sides to this. One is that this drives demand, which is great, and is creating opportunities for startups and existing established companies. For the other side of it, it does become a very crowded market.”

However, Parsons is confident in the future, mainly due to the amount of talent found in the UK cybersecurity sphere: “SMEs are continuing to punch above their weight within the cybersecurity space, because within the UK, we have demonstrated the ability to innovate in response to emerging threats, and to demonstrate greater agility in responding to those threats than some of the larger companies have been able to.”

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