It’s been a phenomenal year for Plexal, during which we celebrated our sixth birthday. Month after month, we’ve continued, and built upon, our existing work to forge partnerships in line with our mission of closing the gap between organisations to solve society’s challenges through collaboration to create secure, prosperous UK communities.
As a team, we’ve achieved this through furthering delivery of our bespoke innovation consultancy services for startups on behalf of government and industry alongside operating state-of-the-art workspaces for over 1,000 innovators in London, Cheltenham, and Manchester.
Here are some stats that highlight our achievements:
- 255 startups and scaleups enrolled onto our innovation programmes
- 143 events held in Plexal Stratford
- 40 innovation programmes, including accelerators, research and insight gathering, technology and capability development, system design and delivery
- 23 new members of Plexal staff, taking us to 85 people
As we get ready to recharge over the holiday period, this is the ideal time to reflect and look back on the big milestones from 2023 and share that rundown with you, our community – without which this wouldn’t be possible.
So, put on some comfy shoes and join us for a stroll down memory lane, as we recap some key moments from January to December 2023.
The Prime Minster at Plexal: Innovation at the heart of everything we do
Selecting Plexal Stratford as the location of choice to deliver his first speech of 2023, we heard Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s passion for innovation first-hand as he said: “We need to change the way our country works. That requires a change in mindset. What does that mean in practice? It means a more innovative economy.
“The change is to put innovation at the heart of everything we do – an ethos embodied by so many of the fantastic businesses right here at Plexal. The more we innovate, the more we grow. And the world is seeing an incredible wave of scientific and technological change. So right now, the most powerful way to achieve higher growth is to make sure the UK is the most innovative economy in the world.”
Plexal acquires Hub8 to connect regional cyber communities
We acquired a majority shareholding in Hub8 – a growing network of coworking spaces for cyber-tech, digital and creative startups and SMEs in and around Cheltenham, a town that’s the natural home of the UK’s cyber ecosystem given GCHQ’s more than 70-year heritage in the region.
Ten Manchester cyber startups to watch – and how you can join them
Our first DiSH Accelerator Programme – designed to support Greater Manchester-based cyber startups – concluded with a Demo Day where participants got to show off their businesses to an excited audience of investors, mentors and fellow entrepreneurs. Get to know them.
Chancellor talks turning UK into Silicon Valley as Treasury Connect arrives at Plexal Stratford
For the latest edition of Treasury Connect, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, took to the Centre Stage at Plexal Stratford. The Chancellor detailed: “…we have incredible strengths in innovation industries and if we play our cards cleverly, we can turn the UK into the world’s next Silicon Valley. Green industries is very important in that.”
A core Plexal member that’s no stranger to running events in our space, we were thrilled to see youth-focused sport and mentor community BADU expand its footprint with the BADU Café, which is built to “serve as a bridge between the new and existing communities, bringing them together to thrive.”
You can celebrate women all year, not just on International Women’s Day
With IWD upon us, Plexal team members commented on subjects including parental leave policies, lessons from diversity initiatives across sectors and why we must remember to celebrate the wins of women as they occur, rather than dwelling on the negatives.
🗣 This #IWD2023 we spoke to people from across GM’s digital and tech sector asking “what comes from valuing and supporting difference?”— GMdigital (@GMCAdigital) March 8, 2023
First up hear from @AlisonMc_F @WiganCouncil, @DebDoesDigital @BW_SciTech and @RubyMotabhoy @PlexalCyber @Plexalcity #DoingDigitalDifferently pic.twitter.com/KDPtp3JfOX
Plexal signs Armed Forces Covenant
Plexal became a signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant and pledged that those who serve or who have served in the Armed Forces, and their families, should be treated with fairness and respect in the communities, economy and society they serve with their lives.
James Gayner, Plexal Director of Defence, who spent 20 years in the British Army, said: “We’re proud to demonstrate our commitment to the Armed Forces by signing the Armed Forces Covenant. Plexal exists to inherit the mission of the nation’s government and drive better outcomes through innovation; so defence, the MOD and the Armed Forces are incredibly important to us.”
Keir Starmer at Plexal as community unites for Stephen Lawrence Day
Saturday 22nd April is Stephen Lawrence Day and this year’s date marked 30 years since Stephen Lawrence was murdered in a racially aggravated attack. Paying homage to Stephen’s memory, Plexal member My Life My Say, a youth-led, democracy movement, hosted a powerful special event at our Stratford workspace – Celebrating Stephen Lawrence: 30 Year Anniversary.
Kate Pearman, COO at Plexal, said: “The event was equal parts moving, illuminating and important. As a professional who believes in people, it was a privilege to hear Doreen and Keir speak with one another so openly. As a mother, I was inspired by Doreen’s unwavering ability to persevere through such adversity.”
Meet workspace member Canopy – improving vehicle security with AI
Canopy is a joint venture between Ford and ADT that’s designing smart vehicle security systems to protect vehicles and their contents from theft. The Canopy team moved into a newly formatted Plexal Stratford private office to take full advantage of our innovation community and adaptable coworking facilities. As a demonstration of this, we replaced one of the exterior walls of its workshop with a sliding door that allows Canopy to drive its test vehicles right into the building.
Opening the Global Gateway: UK startups receive soft landing pad in US
Plexal met Maryland Governor Wes Moore in London during his first international trade mission, committing to be a part of the US state’s exciting Maryland Global Gateway Soft Landing Program. This enables businesses to explore Maryland for a possible location or expansion, receiving a “soft landing” comprising affordable rates, resources, facilities and advisors on arrival.
Plexal and DSIT buckle up as co-pilots for Cyber Runway 3.0
We reinforced our partnership with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology through Cyber Runway 3.0. This aligned with our position as the innovation company solving society’s challenges through collaboration with government, startups and industry.
Cyber Runway graduate, Nadia Kadhim, CEO at Naq Cyber, the cyber security and data compliance solution, said: “The key takeaway from Cyber Runway Ignite was how the six of us founders were sharing our deepest darkest fears and issues right from the outset. What I found very, very powerful was the coaching on imposter syndrome. Six months ago, I felt very uncertain but now I’ve become a genuine leader.” As a demonstration of her personal growth, Nadia was named in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe 2023 list in March.
Plexal CEO Andrew Roughan joins BBC News to discuss London Tech Week
Reporting on London Tech Week and the Prime Minister’s speech, BBC News presenter Ben Thompson spoke with Plexal CEO Andrew Roughan. With the conversation moving towards artificial intelligence, Andrew opined: “I think we must make sure that we put the guardrails in the right place but also understand AI from a growth potential perspective.”
How UK councils have tackled cyber security challenges to benefit their communities
Plexal started working on the Secure Connected Places research project with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) in 2022 – work that’s continued into 2023. Together, we’ve worked with six local authorities – of differing locations, technical maturities and sizes – to respond to their security challenges linked to connected places. The result was a set of practical and accessible resources that support the cyber security of connected places – the Secure Connected Places Playbook.
Plexal CEO wins the techUK President’s Award: Economy – a huge endorsement of our collective mission
Plexal’s leadership team attended the techUK President’s Award dinner on Wednesday 5th July and were over the moon to hear our CEO Andrew Roughan’s name called to be crowned the Economy Award winner!
President of techUK, Sheila Flavell CBE announced the winner of the Economy Award, saying: “The winner for Economy is a problem solver, a super connector and a tech optimist. A passionate advocator building local communities and economic growth for the businesses they support, and they work with including almost 500 startups in the last six years, championing the collaboration of startups, industry, government, academia and investors is at the heart of everything they do. And the winner is Andrew Roughan from Plexal!”
Blockchain incubator showcases startup success
Block Dojo, the blockchain incubator based at Plexal Stratford, concluded their intense 12-week incubator programme with their fifth cohort of eight startups which pitched their ideas in our Centre Stage to a room full of angel investors, VCs, blockchain enthusiasts, family and friends. Chidinma Onu, Programme Associate at Block Dojo, said: “We extend our heartfelt gratitude to everyone who joined us at Plexal on Thursday 20th July to show unwavering support for the founders and their businesses.”
The startups addressing European defence needs with Plexal and AWS
Tackling challenges faced by the defence sector, which includes everything from increased cyber threats through to energy resilience, Plexal partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to deliver the AWS European Defence Accelerator. 13 startups joined, providing mission-critical solutions for land, air, maritime, space and cyber domains.
Using failure as fuel for the entrepreneurial journey
We were joined by Cyber Runway alumnus and serial entrepreneur Melissa Chambers for our summer Cyber Lates event, which discussed failure. “When I talk to you about my failures, you can see there’s a light at the end of the tunnel – that isn’t a train,” Melissa began, sharing the status of her site-to-site security business Sitehop, of which she is CEO and co-founder. “We’re one and a half years old and have a potential ARR of over a billion dollars from its first four customers,” she says, pausing to rapturous applause before continuing “which is just freaking amazing!”
NCSC For Startups community crosses half a billion pounds of funding and creates 1,600 UK jobs
As the NCSC’s innovation partner, we welcomed a new intake of five cyber companies from across the UK to the latest NCSC For Startups programme, which is designed to be a force multiplier for those who have the talent and ambition to solve the biggest cyber security challenges facing the UK. The fivesome follow over 60 businesses to complete the programme that have collectively gone on to raise £512m and create over 1,600 new jobs since 2017.
Password killer, spacetech specialists and circular supply chain among 25 rapid-growth firms to join Scaleup Programme
After months of scouting for companies to participate and processing applications, we revealed the 25 scaleups to form the first Scaleup Programme cohort. Saj Huq, CCO and Head of Innovation at Plexal, said: “The launch of our Scaleup Programme with Barclays Eagle Labs is a significant moment. It evolves our existing relationship, having already collaborated on DiSH Manchester and Product Builder Programme.”
Academia Park Showcase
As part of a grand unveiling of their new site within Plexal Stratford, Academia Park, a Turkish startup launchpad, held a showcase event to introduce the first cohort of companies. Fully demonstrating the benefits of operating within a workspace like this, our innovation services team have provided bespoke mentoring sessions for those enrolled on the programme.
How a DM exchange sparked the creation of the CyBlack community
Always keen to champion the founders within our ecosystem, we sat down with Aliyu Yisa, a member of our NCSC For Startups alumni, to hear how and why he launched CyBlack, which is “a mission to build a global community of black cyber security professionals.” Based out of Manchester himself, Plexal supported the event with space at DiSH, while fellow NCSC For Startups alumnus Simeon Quarrie of VIVIDA delivered a keynote speech to attendees.
Product Builder Bootcamp coaches founders across clean energy to brain health and beyond
From a cohort of 100, we welcomed just 11 founders to the next stage of the Product Builder Programme, a Bootcamp across two days in Plexal Stratford, providing investor access to pitch their ideas and acquire potential investment. And as part of the programme, which is powered by Barclays Eagle Labs, we connected with these budding product builders to share their stories and what they’re about.
Plexal CEO Andrew Roughan discusses AI Safety Summit on BBC News
Following his appearance on BBC News earlier in the year, Andrew returned for another conversation with presenter Ben Thompson, this time during the AI Safety Summit. “This is a really important moment for the UK,” Andrew detailed. “We’ve been longstanding leaders in AI to date as a result of the world class research that comes out of our universities, but also the talent that’s then fuelled companies like DeepMind, now part of Google.” He noted hosting the Summit is a milestone that’s “positioned the UK really strongly for the future” and continuing to lead.
Plexal partners with the Secret Intelligence Service, opening SIS Technology Challenge to startups and SMEs
Plexal is a key partner for the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) – also known as MI6 – as part of the SIS Technology Challenge, supporting SIS to discover creative, interesting and novel solutions for a series of technology challenges. Aiming to take advantage of a thriving science and technology ecosystem, SIS recognises the opportunities this presents for national security, with the support of Plexal’s experience creating collaborative ecosystems for startups, government, industry and academia. Applications for the SIS Technology Challenge close at 23.59pm on Tuesday 9th January, so don’t delay. Submit your details for consideration now and further your company’s mission in support of the UK’s national security.
Plexal CEO champions Cheltenham’s Golden Valley development on BBC Gloucestershire
Golden Valley is to generate 12,000 jobs and create 3,700 homes and joining BBC Radio Gloucestershire, Plexal CEO Andrew Roughan said: “Whether you’re in Tokyo, Istanbul or Silicon Valley, [we can reach a point where] people know about Golden Valley, what it stands for, who’s there and what effect it can have.“
From the Gulf to the UK: The women supporting women to keep society cyber secure
As part of our delivery of the UK-Gulf Women in Cybersecurity Fellowship – on behalf of the UK government’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) – we were thrilled our Fellowship alumni joined us in the UK. We designed the fellows’ visit to arm them with rich insight from government, industry and startups, offering a deep dive into the UK’s methods of cyber threat protection across policy, operations and innovation.
Startups Magazine: The startup programme strengthening the UK’s digital defence
Fresh from her first visit to Plexal Stratford as part of our NCSC For Startups Showcase with the National Cyber Security Centre, Sheryl Miles from Startups Magazine writes about the “remarkable achievements” of our alumni community.
Finally, wow could we possibly close off 2023 without referencing our annual Christmas bash, Plexmas?! We invited our members, partners, alumni and the rest of our Plexal ecosystem to join us on a journey back to the 80s as part of a neon-filled evening with shoulder pads, big hair and acid wash denim. Our guests got to sing their hearts out at karaoke, show off their dance moves and challenge peers to retro video games.
We’re incredibly proud of all we’ve achieved this year and hope you are too. If you think 2023 had a lot of activity take place, we’re keeping our foot on the gas as we enter 2024, so brace yourself for plenty of updates, opportunities and fresh developments, which we’ll share on an ongoing basis. Stay tuned to all the Plexal socials across LinkedIn, Instagram and X and we’ll catch you in the New Year!