North West Cyber Security Connect for Commercialisation (NW CyberCom)

NW CyberCom is a collaborative £1.2 million project funded by Research England's Connecting Capability Fund (CCF)

background image lancaster map with pin

About the project

NW CyberCom is a £1.2 million project aiming to unlock the cyber security potential of the North West. Led by Lancaster University, the project will see six partner universities capture the very latest cyber security innovations and partner with entrepreneurs, investors, government and businesses to transform cutting-edge knowledge into innovative new products, services and policy, to better protect consumers, businesses and UK infrastructure.

Funded by Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund (CCF), the new North West Cyber Security Connect for Commercialisation (NW CyberCom) project will be supported by Plexal; Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and lead consultancy, CRSI.

NW CyberCom will draw on established partnerships with the National Cyber Force and GCHQ to develop an innovation ecosystem across the North West Cyber Corridor and provide bespoke training for university researchers focused on maximising commercialisation opportunities.

The ecosystem will create a platform for sustained cyber focused research commercialisation, bringing together industry, innovation, universities and investment to accelerate growth. It will ensure the North West becomes the “go to” place for companies looking for investment, investors looking to enhance their deal flow and businesses who need access to the latest technology and thinking in the cyber space through an ongoing pipeline of intellectual property emerging from academic research.

This builds on growing momentum to strengthen the North West Cyber Corridor and, alongside the National Cyber Force’s relocation to Lancashire, further demonstrates the growing importance of the region as a powerhouse for national cyber security.

Project process

The diagram bellow illustrates the seven work packages that encompass the project activity. The central stream represents the opportunity for academic colleagues from all partner universities to engage with mission critical challenges, the outcomes of these projects will be assessed for potential commercial viability and tailored support will be available to identify, and progress along, routes to market.

Ecosystem Development

Throughout the project, partners will collaborate to strengthen the emerging cyber ecosystem in the North West. Input from MIT, world leaders in ecosystem development research, will enable best practice to be followed as they share their expertise. Developing a thriving ecosystem will provide an environment where research and commercialisation have the best chance of success and create a sustainable pipeline of new Innovation Driven Enterprises (IDEs).

Connecting Cyber Capability & Awareness

Another specific aim of project activity is to increase the capability of researchers, Technology Transfer Offices (TTOs) and the university leadership to efficiently launch ideas, products and services. Using Scalable Cyber Focused Future Founders Programme and University Leadership Commercialisation Awareness to remove barriers to potential exploitation and introducing Innovators in Residence at partner universities to help embed a culture of innovation and commercialisation.

 There is a circle around the outside of the diagram made of two cyclical parts named 'Ecosystem development' and 'Connecting cyber capability and awareness'. These are circled around a linear row of linked shapes that are named: uncover, validate, select, launch and grow.

There will be opportunities for key industry partners to uncover and share IP that they do not have the resources/capacity to develop but recognize the strategic and commercial value it could have in another setting.

Alongside this, Mission Critical Challenges will be identified to enable research teams to work on mission-led innovation that delivers real impact for front-line problems. A series of ‘Grand Challenge’ workshops will be facilitated by Plexal so University partners can collaborate on solutions to address challenges, enabling a pipeline of research commercialisation opportunities to enable new IDEs.

Proof of Concept Funding will be available for the most promising research teams to develop their mission lead ideas further over 4-5 months.

Projects with significant market opportunity will be prioritized to ensure maximum benefit from engagement with Pre-Accelerator programmes.

Initial business plan and model that has been developed by the project teams will be reviewed by an expert panel, consisting of industry and investment partners to determine best route of commercialisation.

Market discovery activity will take place via tailored and sponsored Pre-Accelerator programmes to provide a springboard to commercialisation.

Best practice models will be shared between partner institutions to efficiently spin-out new companies for the security and critical infrastructure supply chain.

Teams will have access to high-quality “commercial champions” for start-up and spin-out businesses via CRSI.

Support will be available to scale the start-up business to be a leading IDE through investment, networking, mentoring and wider supply chain development activity.

There is a need to build a cyber investment community, bringing together investors from across the UK to discuss challenges and opportunities, share deal flow and accelerate the growth of the portfolio businesses. Investor Ladder and CRSI will work with NW CyberCom to build an “investment centre of excellence” focused on the cyber and security industry.

Bringing together industry, innovation, and investment across a range of vertical markets to accelerate growth, through formal workshops, networking events and access to latest industry trends and innovations. A dedicated “Cyber Zone” led by NW CyberCom will be part of the Climb24 and Climb25 Innovation Summits to help build momentum.

Activity will include:

  • “Investor Readiness” workshops for early-stage businesses
  • Industry insights and workshops for investors
  • Keynote speakers
  • Workshops and round tables
  • Showcase presentations.
  • Cyber investor platform hosted by Investor Ladder
  • Investor drop-in clinics (online and in-person)
  • Sector Specific investor cluster within Investor Ladder network (including international investors) providing clear signposting to companies looking for investment


We are working alongside our external partners and collaborators to provide events to engage businesses in cyber innovation.

We are delighted to announce our events for 2024:

Cyber Leadership Symposium | 3rd and 4th July 2024

Registration is now open for the Cyber Security Leadership Symposium 2024 On the 3rd and 4th July 2024.

This two day event is for senior executives seeking to explore and understand the complexities of being a Cyber Security leader. This symposium is targeting individuals seeking to innovate and disrupt what it means to be a cyber security leader in a complex global environment.

To register follow the link below.

Find out more about the Cyber Security Leadership Symposium
Image shows hands holding CGI technology ball
  • News Article: MIT Cyber Innovation event

    North West cyber ecosystem to unlock opportunities for commercialisation. Lancaster University has collaborated with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to discuss the importance of a cyber ecosystem in the North West with key stakeholders in the region.

Past event: Commercialisation Sandpit | 22nd April 2024

Plexal is co-leading delivery of the NW CyberCom: Commercialisation Sandpit alongside Lancaster University, with support from the partner universities – and we want academic experts to be a part of it.

We’re on the search for individuals from all backgrounds to bring their diverse ideas, approaches and research to the table to tackle some of the most important cyber security challenges facing the North West region and the UK at large.

image with the partner university, collaborators and funder logo with title repeated

Tab Content: Ideating Commercial Solutions

We’ll provide a unique opportunity for academics be part of a high-profile programme that will provide coaching, up to £25,000 per project in funding and collaboration opportunities to evolve from idea to a product-in-the-making as your confidence and concept grows.

You’ll connect with industry leaders to learn about real-world cyber challenges – and how your research can be part of the solution. In return, you’ll be open to trying new things outside of your comfort zone, collaborating and testing ideas that can be commercialised with an entrepreneurial mindset.

Tab Content: The Opportunity

You will:

  • partner with entrepreneurs and businesses to develop ideas
  • create new solutions to cyber challenges affecting society and the fabric of the economy
  • harness academic research and expertise to create a competitive advantage for the North West, resulting in growth and the creation of local startups and spinouts
  • help the North West capitalise on existing strengths and sectors where it’s already thriving to be a UK leader in cyber and emerging technologies
  • develop a Proof of Concept with £25,000 in funding and support

Tab Content: The Challenges

How can you use your research?

Ethical AI and Quantum for cyber security

Emerging technology areas, such as AI and quantum, are impacting the future of cyber security and enabling new approaches for industry to process, secure and analyse data. This can create greater efficiencies and reduce burden on employees.

However, technologies such as AI and quantum also present a new cyber security threat: the ability to generate convincing information and data, which may not be accurate or validated, as well as a new threat to established security protocols. Industry will need to leverage cutting-edge research to employ novel solutions to mitigate these risks.

We’re looking for ideas utilising research which innovatively address either (or both) of the following key questions:

  1. How can you use ethical AI to automate decision making reducing ‘cognitive load’ in a cyber secure way?
  2. How can you use AI or quantum to ensure data authenticity and/or assure confidential data sharing?

Your idea can leverage any approach using AI, or quantum, or both to address these key cyber security challenges industry is facing.

Tab Content: Key Dates

Selected academics will be invited to a workshop with industry and startups, after which you’ll be asked to submit a full proposal. We’ll be on hand throughout to help you craft the right idea and understand how your research applies to the first challenge.

  • Thursday 4 April: Virtual Ask Me Anything, 3-4pm
  • Monday 15 April: Deadline for applications
  • Monday 22 April: Commercialisation Sandpit at DiSH, Manchester: 12-4pm
  • Wednesday 24 April: Virtual drop-in session, 2-3.30pm
  • Wednesday 8 May: Deadline for proposals
  • Thursday 16 May: Notifications of Success
Frequently Asked Questions (Virtual AMA minutes)

Tab Content: What Next?

Your idea can leverage any approach using AI, or quantum, or both to address these key cyber security challenges industry is facing.

You may want to consider different AI models, or the ethics and bias of utilising AI. You may have specific target sectors in mind as early adopters for your potential solution – but this isn’t necessary. We’re welcoming ideas which could be applied to critical national infrastructure use cases.

If you’d like to express interest and get involved, the first step is to fill out a form. To do this you can either:

  • Contact your institution's KE project representative and copy in
  • Select the 'express your interest' button

Past event: MIT Cyber Innovation event | Friday 3rd May 2024

This invitation-only event was led by representatives from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who drew on their experience of delivering the Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program (REAP) that engages with communities around the world to strengthen innovation-driven entrepreneurial ecosystems.

The session will drive discussion, debate and learning to ensure that key stakeholders across the North West Cyber Ecosystem understand and share best practice supporting innovation driven enterprises and promoting growth.  

The session will be led by Professor Dame Fiona Murray, the Associate Dean for Innovation and Inclusion at MIT Sloan School of Management. She is an international policy expert on the transformation of investments in science and technology into deep-tech start-up ventures that solve significant global challenges and create national advantage – from defence and security to health and water security. She is a member of the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology, Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors of the NATO Innovation Fund, a member of the MOD Innovation Advisory Panel and European Innovation Council Joint Expert Group. 

Dame Murray will be supported by Dr Phil Budden also based at the MIT Sloan School of Management, who focuses on innovation ecosystems around the world, their key stakeholders, and especially, ‘corporate innovation’. In addition to MIT REAP, both Professor Dame Murray and Dr Budden have collaborated with Global EPIC, a Global network of “Ecosystems in Partnership in Innovation and Cybersecurity” and can bring their experience of international best practice to the session. 

MIT REAP's unique multi-stakeholder model includes members from five key groups of actors in innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems: government, university, corporate, risk capital, and entrepreneurs. The event will bring together key stakeholders from all of these groups aligned to cyber innovation in the region’s nationally significant security, defence, advanced manufacturing and energy/net zero, sectors, to discuss different perspectives, articulate the opportunities and challenges, gain shared understanding of what makes a successful and sustainable innovation driven eco-system and agree on actions and next steps through collaboration in order to embed this.

Meet the Team

Innovators in Residence

NW CyberCom has enlisted a cohort of six "Innovators in Residence," comprising experienced founders and recognized leaders in the field of cybersecurity. These innovators will apply their real-world cybersecurity expertise to support the commercialization of advanced, innovative academic cyber research, alongside the creation of a North West Cyber ecosystem. Their insights, passion, and deep understanding of the cyber marketplace will inject a valuable, dynamic, and exciting element into the project to produce outstanding results.

Profile image of Paul

Paul Boardman

Salford University

Profile image of Jez

Jez Goldstone

University of Manchester

Profile image of Ryan

Ryan Heartfield

Manchester Metropolitan University

Blank profile image

Kumi Thiruchelvam

University of Liverpool

Blank profile image

Giles Watkins


Blank profile image

Jeremy Gidlow

Lancaster University

Higher education institute partners

External Collaborators

  • Plexal

    Plexal has expertise collaborating with the NCSC to surface mission critical challenges to be solved by start ups

  • CRSI/Investor Ladder

    CRSI have an extensive network of equity investors, facilitated training and knowledge sharing

Connect with us

Keep up to date with the project and our collaborators and partners by connecting with us.


Get in touch

Want to get involved? Fill out the form below to express your interest.

If you have any other queries please contact 

Fields marked with an asterisk (*) are required.

Your details

Lancaster University will hold and use the information which you supply in line with our privacy policy. This will be used to contact you in response to your enquiry. We would also like to send you information which may be of interest to you and your organisation. Please email us at if you do not want to receive this information in the future.