Funding competition Cyber security academic startup accelerator programme 2024-25: phase 1

Individuals based in a UK academic institution can apply for a share of up to £800,000 to join the cyber security academic startup accelerator programme (CyberASAP).

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Competition sections

Description

The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) will work with Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, to invest up to £800,000 in innovative on cyber security projects coming from an academic research base.

The aim of this competition is to identify the most promising commercial opportunities. Your proposal must include the area of your research, the problem that you are solving and your proposed solution.

The Cyber Security Academic Startup Accelerator Programme (CyberASAP) is a one year programme.

This is phase 1 of a 2-phase competition.

Phase 1 will last up to four months, split into two stages:

  1. An initial two months for value proposition development activities, followed by a presentation to an independent judging panel who will select teams to go to stage 2.
  2. A further two months for market validation activities.

Phase 1 will determine the value of the idea and, if appropriate, identify the best commercial route to progress. The programme will be supported by industry experts, including some from cyber security.

This competition has two funding strands for entry:

Strand 1: Industry Challenge-led strand with the three challenges: AI model security, software supply chain security, and Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) security or OT (Operation Technology) security.

Strand 2: Open strand

Please note that although you can select the strand for your project, we will make the final decision which strand is the most appropriate for your application.

This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated in this Innovate UK competition brief. We cannot guarantee other government or third party sites will always show the correct competition information.

Funding type

Grant

Project size

Your project’s total costs must be up to £32,000 with £16,000 allocated to stage 1 and £16,000 to stage 2.

Accessibility and Inclusion

We welcome and encourage applications from people of all backgrounds and are committed to making our application process accessible to everyone. This includes making reasonable adjustments, for people who have a disability or a long-term condition and face barriers applying to us.

You can contact us at any time to ask for guidance.

We recommend you contact us at least 15 working days before this competition’s closing date to allow us to put the most suitable support in place. The support we can provide may be limited if you contact us close to the competition deadline.

You can contact Innovate UK by email or call 0300 321 4357. Our phone lines are open from 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm UK time, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Who can apply

This award is provided on a no subsidy basis. This means you must publish or make all project outputs openly available on a non-selective basis. If you decide to commercially exploit project outputs, you can only do so with no selective advantage.

This competition offers two funding strands:

Strand 1: Industry Challenge-led strand

Strand 2: Open strand

You will be asked which funding strand you are applying for:

  • Industry Challenge – led strand is open for eligible individuals from any UK academic institution who address one of three key industry challenge areas from AI model security, software supply chain security and Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) or Operation Technology (OT) security
  • Open strand is open for any eligible individual

This is phase 1 of a 2-phase competition.

Phase 1 will last up to four months, split into two stages.

Your project

Your project must:

  • have total costs for the two stages up to £32,000
  • have total costs for the first stage up to £16,000
  • have total costs for the second stage up to £16,000
  • start on 1 April 2024
  • end on 31 July 2024

You must only include eligible project costs in your application.

Under current restrictions, this competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian or Belarusian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian or Belarusian source.

Lead organisation

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
  • not act in any way to gain selective commercial or economic advantage from the outputs of this project

Project team

To collaborate with the lead, you must:

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

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service (IFS) by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account and enter their own project costs into IFS.

To be an eligible collaboration, the lead and at least one other organisation must apply for funding when entering their costs into the application.

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

The grant will be paid to the academic institutions after each stage of phase 1. Each academic institution in the consortium will be funded individually, but the total funding for all academic partners must be no more than £32,000 for each application.

Subcontractors

Subcontractors are not allowed in this competition.

Building value proposition and market validation activities

Participants in Phase 1 with ideas that demonstrate the most potential for commercialisation will be invited to apply to participate in phase 2, where funding is available to develop a proof of concept for the product or service.

If we award you funding, you must be dedicated to the project for the two month value proposition building activity from 1 April 2024. If we decide you can continue to the market validation activity you must be dedicated for the additional two months until 31 July 2024.

'Dedicated to the project' means you must:

  • attend two days of in-person events and three days of online events as part of the initial two month value proposition activity
  • the Challenge-led cohort is expected to attend an additional half day, plus one day spread across this phase for masterclasses and mentoring
  • be able and permitted to work on your project for at least two days a week in order to make it a success

Innovate UK Business Connect will organise all events except the Challenge-led events, which will be organised by Plexal. You will be contacted by Innovate UK Business Connect and Plexal with full details of events relevant too you, including confirmed dates.

The planned dates for the value proposition stage are:

  • 9 and 10 April 2024: in person value proposition bootcamp
  • 19 April 2024: webinar for Technology Transfer Officers or equivalent
  • 1 and 2 May 2024: online value proposition mid-stage review
  • 29 and 30 May 2023: online value proposition pitch to selection panel, teams must pitch at a slot on one of these two days

Industry Challenge-led strand participants are expected to attend the additional following events:

  • welcome in person event on 11 April 2024
  • three virtual masterclasses to be delivered in weeks commencing 22 April, 6 May, and 20 May, intended to last up to 90 minutes each
  • a monthly virtual growth group meet-up to be delivered in weeks commencing 29 April, 27 May
  • at least one 1:1 mentoring session in week commencing 13 May

Innovate UK Business Connect will hold informal weekly one hour drop-in sessions during the value proposition stage. These are likely to be Friday mornings.

Before the formal start of the programme an informal online introduction session is planned for the week commencing 1 April. Innovate UK Business Connect will advise all participants of the date and time in due course.

If selected to undertake the additional two months for market validation, you must commit to attend two days of in person events and three days of online events. In addition the Challenge-led cohort is expected to attend an additional half day, plus one day spread across this phase for masterclasses and mentoring.

The planned dates are:

  • 5 and 6 June 2024: in person market validation bootcamp
  • 26 and 27 June 2024: online market validation mid-stage review
  • 23 and 24 July 2024: online market validation pitch to selection panel, teams must pitch at a slot on one of these two days

Industry Challenge-led strand participants are expected to attend the additional following events:

  • mid-point in person event on 7 June 2024
  • three virtual masterclasses in weeks commencing 10 June, 17 June, 8 July
  • a monthly virtual growth group meet-up in weeks commencing 24 June, 15 July
  • at least one 1:1 mentoring session in weeks commencing 3 June, 1 July

Number of applications

You can submit more than one application if you have multiple ideas, but we will not select more than one for funding.

Use of animals in research and innovation

Innovate UK expects and supports the provision and safeguarding of welfare standards for animals used in research and innovation, according to best practice and up to date guidance.

Applicants must ensure that all of the proposed work within projects, both that in the UK and internationally, will comply with the UKRI guidance on the use of animals in research and innovation.

Any projects selected for funding which involve animals will be asked to provide additional information on welfare and ethical considerations, as well as compliance with any relevant legislation as part of the project start-up process. This information will be reviewed before an award is made.

Previous applications

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

You can make a maximum of two submissions to Innovate UK with any given proposal. If Innovate UK judges that your proposal is not materially different from your previous proposal, it will be counted towards this maximum.

If your application goes through to assessment and is unsuccessful, you can reapply with the same proposal once more.

We will not award you funding if you have:

No subsidy (and non-aid where applicable)

No subsidy

This competition has been designed to provide funding that is not classed by Innovate UK as a subsidy.

Your eligibility to be given an award on a ‘No Subsidy’ basis will be determined by Innovate UK after you have submitted your application.

You should still seek independent legal advice on what this means for you, before applying.

Further information about the Subsidy Control Act 2022 requirements can be found within the Subsidy Control Act 2022 (legislation.gov.uk).

It is the responsibility of the lead organisation to make sure all collaborators in the project remain compliant with the ‘No Subsidy’ status they are awarded. .

It is important to note that it is the activity that an organisation is engaged in as part of the project and not its intentions, that define whether any support provided could be considered a subsidy. 

EU State aid rules now only apply in limited circumstances. Please see the Windsor Framework to check if these rules apply to your organisation.

Further Information

If you are unsure about your obligations under the Subsidy Control Act 2022 regime you should take independent legal advice. We cannot advise on individual eligibility or legal obligations.

Funding

Up to £800,000 has been allocated to fund cyber security ideas in this competition. Funding will be in the form of a grant.

You can claim 100% funding for your eligible project costs. This can only cover salary, programme related travel within the UK, accommodation if necessary and subsistence.

No more than £16,000 can be allocated to the initial two months of the programme for the stage 1 value proposition building activity.

No more than £16,000 can be allocated to the two months for the stage 2 market validation activity.

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to identify the most promising commercial opportunities in academia in respect to cyber security.

We define ‘cyber security’ to mean protecting any or all the following from unauthorised access, harm or misuse:

  • information systems including hardware, software and associated infrastructure
  • data on information systems
  • services provided by information systems

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

Your project must include:

  • the area of your research
  • the problem you are solving
  • your proposed solution
  • your initial market validation plan

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding projects:

  • that are not related to cyber security
  • that are defence-focused
  • from academic institutions outside the UK
  • that have no intention to commercialise
  • that have an academic lead that has already led and completed a previous CyberASAP project
  • which are classed as State aid under EC regulations or a subsidy under the EU-UK TCA
  • with undertakings which gain a selective economic or commercial advantage from the funding

5 February 2024
Competition opens
6 February 2024
Online briefing event: watch the recording
6 March 2024 11:00am
Competition closes
15 March 2024
Applicants notified

Before you start

You must read the guidance on applying for a competition on the Innovation Funding Service before you start.

Before submitting, it is the lead applicant’s responsibility to make sure:

  • that all the information provided in the application is correct
  • your proposal meets the eligibility and scope criteria
  • all sections of the application are marked as complete
  • if collaborative, that all partners have completed all assigned sections and accepted the terms and conditions (T&Cs)

You can reopen your application once submitted, up until the competition deadline. You must resubmit the application before the competition deadline.

What we ask you

The application is split into two sections:

  1. Project details.
  2. Application questions.

Accessibility and inclusion

We welcome and encourage applications from people of all backgrounds and are committed to making our application process accessible to everyone. This includes making reasonable adjustments, for people who have a disability or a long-term condition and face barriers applying to us.

You can contact us at any time to ask for guidance.

We recommend you contact us at least 15 working days before this competition’s closing date to allow us to put the most suitable support in place. The support we can provide may be limited if you contact us close to the competition deadline.

You can contact Innovate UK by email or call 0300 321 4357. Our phone lines are open from 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm UK time, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

1. Project details

This section provides background for your application and is not scored.

Application team

Decide which academic institution will work with you on the project if collaborative. Invite people from those organisations to help complete the application.

Application details

Give your project’s title, start date and duration. Projects must start on 1 April 2024 and last for four months.

Project summary

Describe your project briefly and be clear about what makes it innovative. We use this section to assign the right experts to assess your application.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Scope

Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope, it will not be eligible for funding.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score all your answers apart from questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 10 and 11. You will receive feedback for each scored question.

You must answer all questions.

Do not include any website addresses (URLs) in your answers.

Question 1. Applicant location (not scored)

You must state the name and full registered address of your organisation and any partners or subcontractors working on your project.

We are collecting this information to understand the geographical location of all applicants.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 2. Animal testing (not scored)

Will your project involve any trials with animals or animal testing?

You must select one option:

  • Yes

  • No

We will only support innovation projects conducted to the highest standards of animal welfare.

Further information for proposals involving animal testing is available at the UKRI Good Research Hub and NC3R’s animal welfare guidance.

Question 3. Public description (not scored)

Describe your project in detail, and in a way that you are happy to see published. Do not include any commercially sensitive information. If we award your project funding, we will publish this description. This could happen before you start your project.

Your answer can be up to 200 words long.

This question is for information only and is not scored.

Question 4. Select funding strand (not scored)

You must select which funding strand you are applying for:

  • Industry Challenge-Led strand - please indicate which challenges you are addressing from AI model security, software supply chain security, IIOT or OT security
  • Open strand

Both strands are open for all eligible individuals.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 5. Need or challenge

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

Explain:

  • the main motivation for the project
  • the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity and identify if you have carried out market analysis or got evidence of demand
  • whether you have identified any similar innovation and its current limitations, including those close to market or in development
  • any work you have already done to respond to this need, for example, if the project focuses on developing an existing capability or building a new one
  • the wider economic, social, environmental, cultural or political challenges which are influential in creating the opportunity, such as incoming regulations
  • how your project supports the National Cyber Strategy 2022

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 6. Approach and innovation

What approach will you take and where will the focus of the innovation be?

Explain:

  • how you will respond to the need, challenge or opportunity identified
  • how you will improve on the similar innovation that you have identified
  • 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

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 7. Commercialisation

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

Describe or explain:

  • what your approach to commercialisation is
  • what your academic institution’s approach to intellectual property (IP) and commercialisation is

Confirm that you have got support from your academic institution’s technology transfer office or equivalent and that they will engage with the programme including attending the commercialisation webinar.

In your answer to question 8 you will need to provide their details.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 8. Team and resources (not scored)

Who is in the project team and what are their roles?

Explain:

  • the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the approach you will be taking
  • the person responsible for academic commercialisation who supports this application, such as your technology transfer officer or equivalent role, and if possible include their name and contact details
  • any other people directly or indirectly involved or relevant to the research, their roles, skills and experience

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 9. Market validation

What is your plan for market validation? Who do you intend to work with?

Explain:

  • your plan for market validation, including objectives, important milestones and how you will measure the success of the market validation
  • how you will determine whether your target market likes your product or service, or your concept for a product or service
  • what evidence there is that the market will be willing to buy your product or service
  • which companies or organisations you plan to approach to ask for support with your market validation
  • how you will find the right contacts and whether they will give you the necessary access to continue your market validation

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 10. Costs (not scored)

What are your costs for the four month programme? How are these costs split between the two stages of this competition? Please note the only eligible costs are salary, travel and subsistence.

Explain:

  • the total costs for your involvement in this programme
  • the salary, travel costs within the UK and subsistence costs required for the programme, that you will incur
  • how the costs will be split into the value proposition and market validation stages of the programme

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Question 11. Motivation (not scored)

What motivates you to apply for the CyberASAP Open Strand or Industry Challenge-Led?

Explain:

  • why you are applying for CyberASAP
  • what success would look like for you after completing the CyberASAP Industry Challenge-Led or Open Strand

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Background and further information

Under the 2022 National Cyber Strategy the UK is taking a new, comprehensive approach to strengthen its position as a responsible and democratic cyber power, able to protect and promote our interests in and through cyberspace.

This National Cyber Strategy strengthens our cyber security so that we are able to pursue and promote our interests with confidence: it will keep us ahead of our adversaries and strengthen our ability to act in cyberspace, as well as our ability to influence and shape tomorrow’s technologies so they are safe, secure and open.

This includes taking the lead in the technologies vital to cyber power, building our industrial capability and developing frameworks to secure future technologies.

The Cyber Security Academic Startup Accelerator Programme (CyberASAP) aims to increase the amount of academic research being commercialised within UK universities through a bespoke programme of support.

For more details on the programme please go to: www.cyberasap.co.uk or email cyberasap@ktn-uk.org.

Data Sharing

This competition is jointly operated by Innovate UK, and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) (each an ‘agency’).

Any relevant information submitted and produced during the application process concerning your application can be shared by one agency with the other, for its individual storage, processing and use. 

This means that any information given to or generated by Innovate UK in respect of your application may be passed on to DSIT and vice versa. This would include, but is not restricted to:

  • the information stated on the application, including the personal details of all applicants

  • scoring and feedback on the application

  • information received during the management and administration of the grant, such as Monitoring Officer reports and Independent Accountant Reports

Innovate UK and DSIT are directly accountable to you for their holding and processing of your information, including any personal data and confidential information. Data is held in accordance with their own policies. Accordingly, Innovate UK, and DSIT will be data controllers for personal data submitted during the application.

Innovate UK complies with the requirements of UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018, and is committed to upholding data protection legislation, and protecting your information in accordance with data protection principles.

The Information Commissioner’s Office also has a useful guide for organisations, which outlines the data protection principles.

Contact us

If you need more information about how to apply or you want to submit your application in Welsh, email support@iuk.ukri.org or call 0300 321 4357.
Our phone lines are open from 9am to 12pm and 2pm to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

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