Uni’s cyber security spin-out given GCHQ boost

University news

Thursday 12 January 2017

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A spin-out spawned from a link-up between Coventry University and tech transfer firm Crossword Cybersecurity has been selected to join a GCHQ-backed initiative to tackle online threats. 

CyberOwl, which launched last year with investment from Mercia Fund Management, is one of only seven start-ups invited onto the unique accelerator which is run by GCHQ and Wayra UK – a Telefónica scheme – and designed to bolster the country’s cyber defences.

The company will benefit from access to GCHQ’s expertise and facilities in Cheltenham to develop its innovative ‘early warning’ threat-detection technology originally created by cyber security researchers at Coventry University. 

CyberOwl’s software monitors networks in real-time to identify early signs of a cyber breach and track it as it evolves, rather than focusing efforts on finding the source of an attack which can be time-consuming and costly.

The initiative, which is also supported by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, is the first step in the development of two innovation centres which are being set up as part of the government’s £1.9bn National Cyber Security Strategy.

Dr Siraj Shaikh, reader in cyber security at Coventry University and chief scientific officer of CyberOwl, said:


“Joining this accelerator is a significant and exciting development for CyberOwl and its technology, but it’s also a vote of confidence in the sort of new approaches to tackling cyber threats that are being researched in universities like Coventry and in start-ups around the country.

“With attacks becoming more sophisticated, we need to be increasingly savvy about our online defences, so it’s great that the government is investing in innovation in this way to help the UK stay ahead of the curve.

“Cybercrime rarely plays out like it does in a James Bond movie – it’s insidious and undramatic, with effects often only felt days or weeks later. But it’s costing global business somewhere in the region of $445 billion, so this initiative is coming at the right time and we’re delighted to be a part of it.”


In a statement on the Wayra UK blog, Matt Hancock MP, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, said:


“I congratulate all the companies selected to join the new accelerator facility which is now open for business. This is an important step in delivering our National Cyber Security Strategy, and supported by £1.9bn transformative investment in cyber security. Based in Cheltenham, the accelerator will help UK entrepreneurs create cutting-edge technology to better protect the nation from cyber attacks and make going online safer for all.”


Gary Stewart, director at Wayra UK and Telefónica Open Future_ (UK), said:


“The opening of the GCHQ Cyber Accelerator is a significant step forward for the UK’s ambitions to be a global hub for cyber talent. By bringing together GCHQ’s world-class security expertise and pairing it with Wayra’s track record in accelerating businesses, we will give entrepreneurs with exceptional cyber security ideas the opportunity to develop them in the best possible environment. This accelerator could have a huge impact on the global cyber security sector, generating the next generation of systems that will make everyone’s online experience safer and more secure.”


In December last year CyberOwl received a £510,000 investment boost from Mercia Fund Management and Coventry University Enterprises to help with the development of its unique technology.


For further press information, please contact Alex Roache, senior media officer, Coventry University, on +44 (0)24 7765 5050 or email alex.roache@coventry.ac.uk.