2021: our year in review

Year in review 2021 Plexal

New programmes, great clients, countless collaborations, more members than ever before and too many Zoom calls to count: it’s been quite the year for Plexal. Here are some of our best bits…

Delivering the UK’s biggest cyber accelerator, which has diversity and inclusion at the heart

cyber runway callout scaled

We’ve been virtually supporting 107 innovators from across the UK who are solving challenges like ransomware, cyber fraud, cyber-physical threats to critical national infrastructure, cloud security and improving threat intelligence and boosting education.

Some 50% of Cyber Runway member companies are based outside of London, 45% are female-led startups and 52% are run by founders from Black and minority backgrounds.

We’ve also made sure our curriculum is helping members build better businesses, so they have access to workshops on topics like tackling bias in the workplace and inclusive recruitment.

Enabling collaboration between enterprises and startups to solve societal challenges

We been working with IBM, which wanted to identify commercial ways of engaging with startups outside of its network.

Together, we’ve identified a series of challenges. Our first challenge saw us select Pimloc as a suitable startup partner for a challenge relating to facial recognition software and public safety. We designed a programme, managed the contracts and helped both parties develop a proof of concept, which they’re now able to use as a business development tool. And we made sure Pimloc and the other startups taking part were paid for their work, which doesn’t always happen when startups deliver pilots and proofs of concepts.

Meanwhile, our enterprise partners Lloyds Banking Group and Dell Technologies renewed their partnerships with Plexal and we continued helping them unlock the potential of the UK’s cyber startup community.

Working with the NCSC and startups to solve national security challenges

Co-founders of Traced

We partnered with the National Cyber Security Centre to launch NCSC For Startups. So far, we’ve launched four challenge areas and brought on nine startups, which are working with us to adapt, develop and test solutions to those challenges.

Our members include cyber unicorn Rebellion Defense and edtech startup PORGiESOFT, which is applying its machine learning to tackle cyber fraud – with help from the programme.

Most recently we also launched the NCSC Investor Forum, which is connecting investors to experts from inside the NCSC and the startups going through our programme.

Collaborating with members and growing our community

We now have over 800 members – 15% more than 12 months ago. And we’re closer to our members now than ever before.

As well as supporting over 280 startups through our programmes since we launched, we’ve been collaborating with members in all sorts of ways. As just one example, we’ve collaborated on bids with our member Taso Advisory, winning more than £250,000 in joint contracts.

Our members have had a busy year too: M Squared received £32.5m to develop its quantum-based technology, Bitstocks launched a new app to help people get to grips with cryptocurrency, MOONHUB released a new VR-based training platform and Alp Technologies ran a demo in Eagle Lab at Plexal before creating a fully renewable power plant in Lincolnshire to demonstrate what its M-Bric battery system is capable of.

Our year of events and member support has included a panel discussion about unconscious bias (and training from Orlene Badu Consulting), monthly office hours with our managing director Andrew Roughan, a series of networking dinners for our founder community, pumpkin carving and plenty of  Women in Business and Queer East at Plexal meetups – both in person and online.

Connecting innovators in the UK and Oman

Plexal has been working closely with the UK Oman Digital Hub, which aims to establish the UK as digital partner for Oman and build a digital ecosystem across the country.

At the start of the year, we launched the Rapid Innovation Accelerator in partnership with Omani innovation development company AL JABR for the UK Oman Digital Hub. The virtual programme connected entrepreneurs and experts in the UK and Oman with Omani innovators who were developing everything from an online fish purchasing platform to a cyber training solution.

Later in the year, we launched Innovate Oman for the hub in partnership with CyLon, Imperial College Business School, Oman’s Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology and AL JABR  to help digital innovators develop solutions to the big challenges faced by Oman’s government and industry.

We’ve already delivered the Innovate Oman Hack, working with our member CyberOwl to define one of the challenges, and the Innovate Oman Cyber Accelerator is kicking off in early 2022.

Look out for more collaboration between Plexal and the Omani innovation ecosystem in 2022 and beyond…

Supporting cyber scaleups with LORCA Ignite

Dan Ng

We’ve helped 72 innovators raise over £200m in investment and earn over £37m in revenue through our government-backed cyber accelerator LORCA, but we had more work to do.

So in June we welcomed back six graduates to LORCA Ignite: a scaleup programme designed to help startups turbocharge their growth.

They’ve become a hugely close group who have supported each other and received mentoring and advice on the scaling challenges they were facing, from pivoting into another sector to international expansion.

Making our workspace more accessible

Building on the changes we made in 2020, this year we added a new hot desking zone in the middle of Plexal that was designed for accessibility first.

Working closely with partners like Scope, our Here East neighbour, and Disability Rights UK, our member, we used features like living moss to absorb noise (which affects people who find it disorientating to work in a noisy environment), made sure there was ample space for wheelchairs and introduced 32 height-adjustable desks.

Growing our cyber community across the UK and connecting with regional partners

As well as welcoming more cybersecurity members of Plexal’s London workspace, launching our new Cyber Lates meetup series and bringing the community together with our hybrid LORCA Live conference, we’ve grown our teams in Cheltenham and Manchester and deepened our relationships with cyber leaders in all corners of the UK.

Manchester City Council appointed a consortium of partners led by Barclays Eagle Labs to create a cybersecurity innovation centre in Greater Manchester. Our innovation team is designing the centre’s accelerator and startup growth programmes, while Lancaster University and the University of Manchester are use will use their academic expertise to support members.

We’re also working with ScotlandIS Cyber and a consortium of partners to create the business case and strategy for the first Scottish Cyber Security Innovation Hub with funding from Scottish Enterprise, and have partnered with CyNam and Hub8 in Cheltenham to deliver NCSC For Startups.

We’ve worked with SMEs, the government and industry experts to explore the future of the UK’s telecoms market

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport worked tasked Plexal with supporting the diversification of the UK’s telecoms market and stimulating the creation of products and services from SMEs and startups.

Looking specifically at a telecoms future led by the needs of enterprises that are setting up private networks, we’ve delivered a 12-week sprint to uncover what the role of SMEs could be and how the ecosystem needs to evolve. We’ll be revealing more next year.