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GCHQ to help firms use cutting-edge tech in keeping UK citizens safe

25 June 2020

THE MENTORSHIP scheme – called the GCHQ Innovation Co-Lab – is being run from the organisation’s new Manchester offices and will see a drive to find innovative start-ups and SME businesses based in the North West. Companies taking part in the 12-week programme will work with GCHQ technologists and industry experts to improve their products using data science, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning.

The overriding aim of the venture is to support the development of innovative products in health, education and other sectors including those that tackle the long-term effects of organised crime.

Gav Smith, GCHQ’s director general for technology, said: “As we increasingly live more of our lives online, there’s a greater risk data can be manipulated to commit crimes and take advantage of the most vulnerable members of our society.  With GCHQ’s mentorship and support, these businesses will have the potential to use the latest technology to improve people’s safety online.”

GCHQ helps to keep the UK safe by using cutting-edge technology, technical ingenuity and world-leading partnerships to identify, analyse and disrupt threats in an increasingly complex world.

Last year, the organisation announced the opening of a new Manchester city centre hub in Albert Square. The high-tech premises is now at the heart of the nation’s security.

Smith added: “We’re excited to be supporting the thriving technology ecosystem in Greater Manchester, connecting ingenious entrepreneurs and creative technologists with the mission of GCHQ to help tackle some of our hardest challenges.”

A previous mentorship scheme run by the Manchester office supported a range of companies to develop innovative products including software to identify illegal online pharmacies, smart home monitoring for assisted living and an augmented reality app for suicide prevention.

Joint venture

The GCHQ Innovation Co-Lab is a joint venture with The Landing, a tech mentorship hub based in MediaCityUK, and global tech accelerator UP Ventures.

Emer Coleman, project director at Up Accelerator, stated: “The GCHQ Innovation Co-Lab will focus on enabling cutting-edge technologies based around data science, Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. Critical sectors such as healthcare, education, the Emergency Services and communications rely heavily on data integrity on which increasingly vital machine learning is based. This will only become more important in the future as citizens and businesses across the globe adjust to living with COVID-19.”

Coleman continued: “Our goal is to help emerging businesses make technical and commercial breakthroughs with their ingenious products and services by giving them access to world-class GCHQ technologists as well as industry experts and dedicated coaches.”

Jon Corner, chief digital officer at City of Salford, concluded: “The GCHQ Innovation Co-Lab at The Landing resonates with our ambitions in Salford and Greater Manchester to build products and solutions that work for all citizens. I’m delighted that The Landing MediaCityUK is a key part of an evolving and growing partnership with GCHQ, which itself is contributing towards the strength of the Greater Manchester digital eco-system.”

*Start-ups interested in joining the mission can apply now