As our Investment Activator Programme has recently announced its new Cyber offering, designed to support companies that are raising early-stage investment, we thought it was about time we did a bit of a potted history of Cyber in the region, to track how much the industry and the ecosystem has grown and developed here over the years.

It’s no secret that the South West has long been recognised as a key hub for Cyber in the UK, initially due to the introduction of GCHQ’s Security Mission to Cheltenham in 1978, but later driven by the official creation of the Internet in 1983 which has meant a new era in how we, and our businesses, need to defend ourselves.   

As the need for Cyber technology and skills has developed over the years, that GCHQ base has acted as a magnet for tech and Cyber firms, meaning the South West, and Cheltenham in particular – has had to develop a superb cyber ready infrastructure and ecosystem. 

Why the South West?

1978 – GCHQ moved its security mission to Cheltenham in 1978, having taken its intelligence mission there 25 years earlier. 

1983 – The official creation date of the Internet – and the start of a new era in how we need to defend ourselves.

2016 – The National Cyber Security Centre was established as part of GCHQ, bringing a specific focus on digital security.

Regional clusters developed in the cyber indsutry 

2014 – Cyber Wales: in 2014 the South Wales Cluster was formed, followed by the North Wales cluster in 2015. Over time more Welsh clusters have been added, including Data Privacy, IP Wales and Women in Cyber – all of which form Cyber Wales, a registered CiC with the aim of being the Heart and Voice of the Cyber Communities in Wales.

2015 – CyNam (Cyber Cheltenham) CiC began as a modest local meetup and now has over 4000 members connecting the best cyber technology minds with local SMEs and start-ups. Their aim is to develop the growth of people and organisations within Cheltenham’s cyber ecosystem, are delivery partners for the fabulous Hub8 innovation spaces and also in the NCSC for Startups programme.

2018 – Bristol & Bath Cyber was created as a community for innovation and collaboration, with the goal of developing the Cyber ecosystem in the Bristol & Bath and wider region. The associated Cyber Conference attracted over 400 attendees in 2019, and the next Cyber Conference will be held on 11th October as part of Bristol Tech Festival.

2021 – South West Cyber Security Cluster covers Cornwall, Devon, Somerset & Dorset. SWCSC is a volunteer led and government supported initiative dedicated to improving cyber skills and innovation across these regions, running regular meetups and events for their community.

2022 – Swindon & Wiltshire Cyber Cluster is a group of cyber security SMEs, run by the Swindon & Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership, which works to support and provide networking and events opportunities for its non-paying members. They are also currently developing the Business Cyber Centre

Physical hubs in region

C11 Cyber Security and Digital Innovation Centre, founded in 2017, offers incubation spaces, co-working and event spaces, access-controlled secure workspaces, and a programme of training and events. Based at the Gloucestershire Science and Technology park in Berkeley. 

Hub8 is a network of facilities in and around Cheltenham that will provide circa 40,000sqft or innovation space for the cyber-tech community. Hub8 is also partnered with Plexal allowing their members access to Plexal’s London base.

2019 – Hub8 Brewery, their first facility offers 100 workspaces in Cheltenham’s town centre to the cyber tech community, and includes a fabulous event space.

2021 – Hub8 Gloucester College (GC) is located adjacent to GCHQ and provides 10000sqft of coworking space.

2022 – Hub8 Minster Exchange is opening in late summer 2022 and will deliver a further 20,000 ft2 of innovation spaces including co-working, private offices, training and testing facilities as well as an event space and bar.

The Business Cyber Centre is about to open its doors in Corsham, near Chippenham, offering a multifunctional conferencing and events space for up to 140 people for conferences, training and away days. 

Education & Research Centres in the region

The Bristol Bath Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security is a multi-disciplinary, joint-university CDT that is a collaboration between the Universities of Bristol & Bath, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. 

Their 4-year interdisciplinary PhD programme provides an immersive training experience for students with experts drawn from all spheres of research, academia and industry.

UK Wide Initiatives 

2012 – Plexal is an innovation company and coworking space that ‘supercharges collaboration’. Plexal has had a physical base at the Olympic Park in London since 2012. 

They’ve partnered with the National Cyber Security Centre on NCSC for Startups, have created Cyber Runway, the UK’s largest cyber accelerator, and also work with cyber innovators via LORCA (the London Office for Rapid Cybersecurity Advancement (LORCA). Plexal also partners with Hub8 to allow both of their members access to either space.

2016 – Cyberfirst is an NCSC programme designed to identify and nurture young people into careers in Cybersecurity. Offering bursaries and apprenticeships for students at schools, colleges and universities as well as skills development to children as young as 7 via CyberSprinters.

2021 – UK Cyber Cluster Collaboration (UKC3) is a government-funded organisation that supports cyber clusters to drive growth of the cyber sector within their nations and regions, encouraging greater collaboration across the UK’s cyber ecosystem.

Other organisations you should check out

2019 – The Cyber Resilience Centre for the South West is a not-for-profit organisation based in Poole, Dorset. The police-led team aims to guide and support small businesses and charities that don’t have the knowledge and resources to protect themselves. 

2019 – The South West Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) is one of nine regional units across England and Wales that delivers specialist capabilities to disrupt organised crime, including Cybercrime. Its counterpart in South Wales is Tarian ROCU

Future projects 

2023 – In Q1 2023 construction of the Golden Valley Development is scheduled to commence.

Golden Valley will be home to a £1bn Cyber Central innovation hub which has been in development since 2019. The area chosen lies north west of Cheltenham town centre, and the development will include sustainable housing, academia, leisure, retail, business, incubation and innovation centers – aiming to make an industry focussed campus, for people and businesses to collaborate and innovate.

2023 – Cardiff led- Cyber Innovation Hub: Just recently in 2022 commitments of £9m of funding have been attracted from Welsh Government, Cardiff Capital Region and consortia to create a Cardiff University-led Cyber Innovation Hub, to help drive the transformation and growth of the cyber cluster in South Wales.

Upcoming Events

Bristol & Bath Cyber is holding the 2022 Cyber Conference as part of TechSPARK’s Bristol Tech Festival on October 11th – get yourself a ticket here – and they also hold a monthly meetup on all things Cyber which you can join here for free.

Also on the 11th and 12th October and held as part of Bristol Tech Festival is a taster of Cyber Runway, a fully funded accelerator with the government, Plexal and Deloitte. The programme supports the growth of tech startups with a link to Cyber and Data to drive more innovation into the industry.
Over the 2 days, there are a whole series of sessions from leading experts to help provide all the tools and connections to succeed. Sessions include:
  • Speed Networking
  • Founder Journeys Q&A
  • Business Ideas and Pivoting
  • Sales and Marketing – how to stand out in a crowded cybersecurity marketplace
  • Follow-up sessions with an account manager to connect you with next steps!

You can see the full agenda and sign up here.