Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey
Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey

Cyber security is a significant problem for Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs) who lack the skills and staff to deal with the rising threat against them.

To help SMEs get to grips with cyber security, Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey has today announced the UK £1 million cyber security innovation vouchers scheme. It will offer vouchers of up to £5,000 to micro, small and medium sized businesses to help them boost their cybersecurity as well as protect new business ideas and intellectual property.

The vouchers can be also used to access services from accredited members of the UK cyber security industry. The expectation is that it will help drive adoption of the Cyber Essentials programme that the UK Government launched last year.

In announcing the voucher scheme, Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey said: “We want to help protect UK businesses against cyber attack and make the UK safest place in world to do business online. The new voucher scheme will offer increased protection for small businesses, and the new online hub will help ensure we have the skilled workforce in place to manage the increased pressures of the digital age.”

What does it cover and how do you apply for a voucher

The scheme will be run by Innovate UK although they have yet to create a page to help companies apply for funding. With the UK Government currently changing many grants and voucher schemes into loan-based programmes, it is unclear whether companies will be expected to pay back the money.

The details of what it covers has also not been disclosed. For example, setting up and securing servers, developing a company-wide cyber security process or understanding how cyber security impacts compliance needs. It is surprising that none of this is already in place and calls to Innovate UK are currently being referred to their switchboard.

Cyber security a growing industry in the UK

The UK Government has been pushing the need for better cyber security for some time. It currently estimates the UK cyber security industry as being worth £17.6bn and employing over 40,000 people. Last year there was a lot of talk about the UK being in a position to export its knowledge overseas but there are no figures that show how much overseas revenue this part of the services industry has generated.

What is clear is that many educational institutes are taking advantage of this government focus to develop new cyber security courses. The Royal Holloway University based in Surrey, regularly hosts cyber security conferences and boasts one of the largest and well established security research centres in the world. It has also co-developed an MSc in Information Security alongside GCHQ.

It is not alone. There are now dozens of degrees in information and cyber security available from UK universities. The challenge is getting enough graduates through the courses and out into the workplace.

To help solve the shortage of skilled experts Vaizey also announced the new “Inspired Careers” online skills and career hub. This has been co-developed by the UK Government and CREST who are a not for profit organisation working in the security marketplace.

According to the press release: “The hub features careers information and advice, internship and apprenticeship opportunities, academic and professional training courses, work experience and senior level vacancies, and will be a powerful tool to promote the cyber security profession and encourage the next generation of cyber specialists to help protect the UK.”


This continued focus by the UK Government on addressing the skills shortages in cyber security is welcomed by many in the IT industry. However, £1 million to address shortcomings in SMEs who are the easy soft underbelly of large enterprise supply chains seems far too little.

According to the Federation of Small Businesses, 99.3% of the registered businesses in the UK are SMEs. With just £1 million to spend that works out at a measly 20p per business and that doesn’t begin to address the large number of micro businesses that are out there.

What is needed is to tie this back to corporate governance and get large enterprises to commit funds to a programme to help secure their smaller suppliers and customers. A two pronged approach will have a much better chance of raising the security bar in the UK.


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