London innovation hub Plexal has selected 35 startups and scaleups to join the second cohort of its Cyber Runway accelerator, the largest government-backed programme of its kind in the UK.
Plexal, which opened applications to the second cohort in July 2022, initially hoped to onboard up to 100 startups into the programme – which is jointly funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and supported by Deloitte and the Centre for Secure Information Technology (CSIT) at Queen’s University Belfast.
The 35 companies are attempting to solve a range of pressing challenges for the cyber security sector, ransomware, zero-day attacks, secure authentication, incident response and generally improving cyber awareness.
Around 45% of the new Cyber Runway members are based outside of London and the South East of England, with 65% having women in their leadership teams, and 28% being run by founders from black, ethnic or minority backgrounds.
While only 35 companies have been selected for the second cohort, Plexal has said that it is supporting an additional 60 firms through an on-demand hub instead, which gives them access to masterclasses and the ability to connect directly with experts and mentors for support. It added that the Cyber Runway is intended to help firms in a more targeted way, based on those that will benefit most from the additional support.
“Our health sector, telecoms network, food system and businesses are being bombarded by increasingly sophisticated cyber security threats. To become a global science and technology superpower and harness the potential of emerging technologies, we need to nurture the very best homegrown cyber security innovations,” said Saj Huq, chief commercial officer and head of innovation at Plexal.
“Cyber Runway is designed to help companies start, grow and scale businesses capable of addressing these challenges, and our new cohort represents some of the most exciting startups with massive growth potential.”
Cyber minister Julia Lopez added: “We are backing businesses on the frontline defending the UK against cyber threats. Our investment in these innovative British startups helps create skilled jobs and a more diverse workforce, which strengthens our national security as well as our booming tech industry.”
The startups and scaleups joining the programme will benefit from both in-person and virtual masterclasses; mentoring, engineering support from CSIT, as well as to CSIT’s data and testing centre; technical product development support; opportunities to connect with international cyber hubs; and networking with investors and corporates to fuel growth.
While the first running of the Cyber Runway programme saw a total of 108 startups take part across three tracks – Launch, Grow and Scale – this time Plexal is only looking for organisations to join the Grow and Scale tracks. Eligible startups can be anywhere from pre-Seed to Series B and above.
Startups in the Grow track include CyberMind, which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help under-pressure cyber professionals manage their mental health; Guardara, a software quality assurance platform that enables security teams, quality assurance teams and developers to identify bugs and zero-day vulnerabilities; and Contxt, which monitors application programming interfaces (APIs) to protect data in motion by remediating authorisation issues, redacting personal data and preventing data leakage.
Others on the Scale track include Quantum Dice, which is developing the world’s first compact source-device independent quantum random number generator; and Worldr, which secures employee data using zero-trust architectures.
Plexal is also involved in a number of other cyber security accelerator programmes. This includes Greater Manchester’s Digital Security Hub (DiSH), which opened applications in August 2022 and is designed to support the growth of early stage startups throughout the North West; and working with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to jointly run its NCSC for Startups initiative, which is specifically designed to help the UK government rapidly expand its cyber security capabilities. NCSC is part of GCHQ.