Government launches £70 million challenge to ‘design out’ cyber threats

Additional investment which aims to bolster IoT security is announced to coincide with Data Privacy Day

The government has set out ambitions for the UK to become a world leader in 'designing out' cyber threats by launching a 70 million challenge to eradicate cyber threats.

The government will ask businesses to compete for millions of pounds in funding to design systems and hardware that are built with security at the forefront, such as chips with especially-integrated security software.

By designing such protections into hardware by default, the government is aiming to increase businesses' resilience to cyber threats, which will be in-effect 'designed out'.

These include Internet of Things (IoT) devices which are becoming increasingly prevalent in organisations across the country.

"The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is committed to improving security from the ground up, and we have been working closely with government to promote adoption of technology and practices to protect the UK," said the NCSC's technical director Dr Ian Levy.

"We hope this additional investment will drive fundamental changes to products we use every day. This is vital work, because improving hardware can eradicate a wide range of vulnerabilities that cause significant harm."

Firms will be asked to compete for a slice of the investment by putting forward business cases to the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. This scheme has set out a range of additional 'Grand Challenges' that feed into the government's wider investment strategy, in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), and even the ageing population.

These R&D projects set out today will be given the go-ahead if approved, and if the funding is matched from the tech industry, the government said.

The business minister Greg Clark also announced an additional 30.6 million investment for a programme to ensure smart systems and IoT devices are secure, with a focus on combining physical safety and security with human behaviour.

"This could be a real step-change in computer and online security, better protecting businesses, services and consumers from cyber-attacks resulting in benefits for consumers and the economy," Clark said.

"With businesses having to invest more and more in tackling ever more complex cyber attacks, 'designing in' security measures into the hardware's fabric will not only protect our businesses and consumers but ultimately cut the growing cybersecurity costs to businesses."

Today's investment package, announced to coincide with Data Privacy Day 2019, may seem welcome but pales in comparison to previous funds committed to boosting R&D in the last 12 months.

In September the prime minister Theresa May announced a 2.5 billion investment pot that will form the British Patient Capital programme to support businesses with high growth potential, also supported with 5 billion in private investment.

The government also announced a 1 billion package for investing in new AI-related technologies in the coming years, including a joint-commitment from industry leaders.

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