Funding competition Cyber security academic startups programme

Individuals based in a UK academic institution can apply for a share of £500,000 to join the cyber security academic startups programme.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) will invest up to £500,000 in innovative cyber security ideas coming from the academic research base.

The aim of this competition is to identify the best commercial opportunities in academia in respect to cyber security. Your proposal should include the area of your research, the problem that you are solving and your proposed solution.

You must be based in a UK academic institution, have a cyber security idea and be interested in commercialising it.

Successful applicants will participate in a 6-week programme (including 3 activities taking up to 5 days in London) to determine the value of the idea and, if appropriate, to identify the best commercial route to progress. The programme will be supported by industry experts, including those from cyber security. It will include the development of a detailed value proposition and an associated pitch.

Funding type


Project size

Projects can have total costs up to £16,000 paid as a grant. If your cost is higher this will still be considered but justification needs to be provided in the application.

Who can apply

To be eligible for funding you must:

  • be based in a UK academic institution
  • have a cyber security idea
  • be interested in the commercialisation of your idea
  • have the support of your academic institution’s technology transfer office, or equivalent

All individuals based in a UK academic institution are eligible, including but not limited to early career researchers and senior academic researchers.

Applicants must be dedicated to the project for the 6 week duration from mid-February.

The grant will be paid at the end of the programme to the academic institution only.


We have allocated up to £500,000 to fund cyber security ideas through this competition.

We plan to accept up to 30 applications.

Applicants can apply for funding support up to 100% of their eligible project costs.

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to identify the best commercial opportunities in academia in respect to cyber security. Your proposal should include:

  • the area of your research
  • the problem you are solving
  • your proposed solution

We will only fund projects that:

  • are cyber security focused
  • have a clear intention to commercialise
  • are UK based
  • have the support of your academic institution to commercialise

By ‘cyber security’ we mean: protecting information systems (hardware, software and associated infrastructure), the data on them, and the services they provide, from unauthorised access, harm or misuse.

This includes harm caused intentionally by the operator of the system, or accidentally, as a result of failing to follow security procedures.

The grant may be used to fund salary, travel and accommodation expenses for the individual that will take part in the programme.

To participate in and complete the programme, successful applicants must attend 3 events in London. The planned dates are:

  • 14 and 15 February: 2-day boot camp
  • 8 March: 1 or 2-day mid-programme review
  • 22 or 23 March: 1-day pitch to selection panel
Successful applicants will be contacted by the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) with full details on the programme, including definite dates.

Projects we won't fund

We will not fund projects that:

  • cover areas not related to cyber security
  • come from outside UK academic institutions
  • have no intention to commercialise

19 January 2018
Webinar briefing event.
22 January 2018
Competition opens
31 January 2018 12:00pm
Competition closes
8 February 2018 8:44am
Applicants notified

Before you start

When you start an application you will be prompted to create an account or sign in as a representative of your organisation. You will need an account to track the progress of your application.

You will be responsible for:

  • collecting the information for your application
  • representing your organisation during the 6 week programme if your application is successful

You will be able to invite colleagues to contribute to the application.

What we will ask you

The application is split into 2 sections:

1. Application details

2. Application questions

1. Application details

Explain your proposal. This section is not scored, but we will use it to decide whether the proposal fits with the scope of the competition. If it doesn’t, it will be immediately rejected.

Application details

Give your proposal’s title, start date and length. The start date should be 12 February 2018 and the length should be 2 months.

Proposal summary

Describe your research area briefly, and be clear about what makes it innovative.

Public description

Describe your proposal in detail, and in a way that you are happy to see published. Please do not include any commercially sensitive information. If we award funding to you, we will publish this description. This could be before the programme of activity starts.

Proposal scope

Describe how your research area fits the scope of the competition. If your proposal is not in scope it will not be eligible for funding.

2. Application questions

In this section, answers to these questions are scored by representatives from DCMS, Innovate UK and the KTN. Following assessment, you will receive feedback.

Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long.

Question 1: The problem your idea will address

What is the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity behind your idea?

You should describe or explain:

  • the main motivation behind your idea
  • the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity (have you carried out market analysis or got evidence of demand?)
  • the current known competition in this area, including those near market or in development

This question is worth 10 marks.

Question 2: Solution and innovation

What is your proposed solution to the problem you identified and where will the focus of the innovation be?

You should describe or explain:

  • how your proposed solution addresses the need, challenge or opportunity identified
  • how your proposed solution will improve on the current competition
  • whether the innovation will focus on the application of existing technologies in new areas, the development of new technologies for existing areas or a totally disruptive approach

This question is worth 10 marks.

Question 3: Commercialisation

How do you intend to commercialise your idea? Have you got support from your academic institution’s technology transfer office, or equivalent?

You should describe or explain:

  • what your approach to commercialisation is
  • what your academic institution’s approach to IP and commercialisation is

This question is worth 10 marks.

Question 4: People

Who is involved and what are their roles?

You should describe or explain:

  • your role, skills and experience
  • the person responsible for academic commercialisation, such as your technology transfer officer or equivalent role
  • any other people directly or indirectly involved or relevant to the research, their roles, skills and experience

This question is for information only and is not scored.

Question 5: Costs

What are your costs for the 6-week programme?

You should describe:

  • the total costs for your involvement in this programme
  • the staff, travel and subsistence costs that you will incur

This question is for information only and is not scored.

Background and further information

The 2016 National Cyber Security Strategy (NCSS) set out the government’s vision for the next 5 years: that the UK will be secure, resilient to cyber threats, prosperous and confident in the digital world. There are 3 broad strands of activity:

1. Defend our cyberspace.

2. Deter our adversaries.

3. Develop our capabilities.

The UK cannot become the world’s leading digital nation and the best place to do business online unless organisations within the UK are secure and resilient. This involves promoting the UK’s cyber security sector, ensuring government, industry and academia work together to support a thriving ecosystem of successful, innovative companies.

The cyber security academic startup programme (ASUP) aims to increase the amount of academic research being commercialised within UK universities through a bespoke programme of support.

A successful pilot concluded in October 2017.

The intention for the second year of the programme (subject to DCMS budget approval) is for 2 additional phases of support to start in Q2 2018:

1. Market validation.

2. Minimum viable product.

We expect to invite applicants with the ideas that demonstrate the most potential towards commercialisation to participate in these further phases.

If you need more information, contact the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email us at

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