The Government is also supporting two key leading figures - techUK's Andy Williams and IASME CEO Dr Emma Philpott – in a bid to strengthen the UK's small cyber security firms, and the sector as a whole which is targeted to make £2 billion in exports in 2016.
The initiatives, announced by Vince Cable at the first US-UK Global Cyber Security Innovation Summit in London on 16 September, have been greeted as “excellent” and “having great potential” by industry experts. They may also go some way to answering the criticism in a recent National Audit Office report, which slated the Government's slow progress in helping cyber exports as “the area of poorest performance” in the National Cyber Security Programme.
The new £4 million competition will be run in 2015 by the Government's innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, which will award the prize money to small firms that have the best ideas for tackling the cyber threat.
Meanwhile, Andy Williams will act as the Government's small business cyber security ‘champion'
within the Cyber Growth Partnership, a high-level joint industry, academia and government body tasked with boosting the UK's global market position in cyber security products and services, which is co-chaired by Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey and BT CEO Gavin Patterson.
And Emma Philpott – ho built the Malvern cluster of small cyber security businesses – is getting Government help in setting up regional networks of security small businesses.
As well as the Malvern cluster, which now numbers more than 50 firms, Philpott has already galvanised new networks in Lancaster and Cardiff, with more on the way in Cambridge, London and Brighton then Bath, Edinburgh and Northern Ireland.
She said she has been “inundated” by small cyber security firms who want to partner and share ideas.
Philpott told SCMagazineUK.com: “The enthusiasm of these companies to get together to talk about the challenges they face, find partnerships and network has been immense.
“Until recently they haven't really had a voice. Now they are a very powerful combined voice and can work together to directly influence government strategy.
“Some of these companies have amazing technology and innovation and a lot of them also have very innovative service offerings. It certainly has benefits to the UK as a whole and to UK exports.”
She said there are already around 160 small firms in the UK Cyber Security Forum, the umbrella organisation helping these clusters, which only began in April.
Overall, the UK cyber security sector is worth more than £6 billion and employs over 40,000 people.
Launching the plans, Vince Cable said: “Building a strong and resilient cyberspace in the UK is central to ensuring that our companies can make the most of business opportunities online, whilst avoiding potentially costly threats to the information they hold and the services they provide.