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Cyber Cluster: 2020 Wrap-up

What a year it has been! Can anyone actually remember what our New Year’s resolutions were for 2020 and how quickly they were forgotten as COVID-19 hijacked both our business and personal plans?

However, despite what 2020 threw at us there were still plenty of success stories from the Scottish cyber community, so here is a quick wrap up of some key achievements.

It has been great to see the cyber cluster continue to grow, with a number of new companies being spun out of universities, such as Lupovis (spin out from Strathclyde), PRC (spin out from Glasgow university) and Memcrypt (spin out from Napier university), among others or new companies being set up such as Decode Cyber Solutions, BlueShield IT and Azacus to name a few! We have also had a number of new companies re-locate or open offices in Scotland such as Poly Digi Tech (re-located from Hong Kong) or Gobbill (Australian company with only European office now in Scotland). It is great to see these numbers continue to increase with over 230 cyber companies now having a presence in Scotland!

We also saw many of the cyber companies extend their portfolio or pivot their business model to survive and grow their business while the pandemic continued to impact their normal mode of business – Siker Cyber for example, who primarily provided bespoke classroom/office based training, now offer their courses online allowing for a much greater reach of customers and the ability to train many more organisations than they could before. Similarly The Big Data Show which used to be run live in schools or theatres now offer an online version. We have also seen some exciting collaborations for example Barrier Networks and Craft Prospect who are working together to design the cyber security controls for a new space-based quantum key distribution system.

On the investment side, there were some noticeable investments successfully secured by Quorum Cyber (£2.7 million), Boundary Technologies (£1.7 million) and Siccar (formerly Wallet Services, £1.3 million) to name a few. Symphonic Systems, a spinout from Napier University, was bought over by Ping Identity, with one of their investment companies, Par Equity, selling its share in the company for $31 million US dollars (achieving a blended 8.3x return).

It was also great to see such a take-up on the UK government DCMS programmes such as Cyber bootcamp 101 (BlueShield IT, Decode Cyber Solutions, Ascent Cyber for example), HutZero (Neon Circle / Chelsea Jardine) and NSCS Accelerator (Vistalworks), and no doubt many more across all these programmes. There were also 3 Scottish start-ups selected for Tech Nation Cyber 2.20 cohort – Snapdragon, Cyan Forensics, Symphonic Software – so great to see our companies being recognised throughout the UK. Innovate UK Cyber ASAP also had 2 Scottish entries, Lupovis (University of Strathclyde) and MemCrypt (Edinburgh Napier University). And in Scotland we also had the CENSIS IOT Secure by design accelerator and it was great to see such exciting projects submitted by Lupovis, Poly Digi Tech, Craft Prospect and Beringar.    

Across a number of DCMS commissioned reports, Scotland has fared well and been identified as a hotspot or key location. For example, in the UK Cyber skills report Edinburgh was identified as a hotspot for cyber roles, and Scotland reported the 4th highest salaries for cyber roles, suggesting a strong jobs market. The LORCA report 2020 highlights Scotland as an area of importance within the UK cyber community. And in cyber related areas, DCMS released a report on the Online Safety Tech sector and mentioned Edinburgh and Cyan Forensics in particular. Ian Stevenson is the Chair of the OSTIA (Online Safety Tech Industry Association) and spearheaded its creation. 

2020 also saw continued progress in cyber skills, in particular on the re-training and inclusivity elements. SDS led on a number of initiatives which sought to support mid-career entry into cyber with a focus on veterans and long-term unemployed in particular. There were also programmes focused on supporting those with neurodiverse conditions which ran from a number of universities and colleges. And we also saw great volunteer led initiatives such as SWiT becoming a Cisco Academy, allowing them to support females to take their first steps into a career in cyber security, and the Scottish Tech Army establishing a partnership with Cyber Scotland Connect to ensure volunteer cyber specialists got involved too.

For many 2020 will be a year to put behind us and forget, but let’s try to take the positives where we can and celebrate the successes that happened despite the very unusual circumstances we all found ourselves in. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and New Year, and look forward to meeting with many of you in person at some point in 2021!

To also do a lightning wrap-up of the cluster activities: we ran 20 events with around 700 attendees across these, numerous emails and blogs highlighting and signposting opportunities for cyber security companies, made countless introductions and provided a number of letters of support for innovation funding applications. We also delivered a cyber cluster report and a high-level proposal for the Scottish cyber innovation hub….and ScotlandIS also gained ESCA silver accreditation in cluster management excellence!

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