Case Study

Enabling GCHQ to collaborate with new talent in the private sector


In 2019 GCHQ opened its new site in Manchester bringing with them hundreds of jobs in technology and data. As innovation partner of MediaCityUK, UP Ventures were contracted to deliver two important programmes that would allow GCHQ to connect and collaborate with technology businesses in the private sector based in Greater Manchester.

Programme 1: Safe Citizen Innovation Lab

The Safe Citizen Digital Innovation was aimed at improving citizen safety in a digitally connected world. The 16-week Accelerator Programme was designed for companies with technology solutions and customer-facing products and services.

This first of two cohorts recruited by UP focused on living safely in a connected digital world with a clear focus on what matters to citizens. We were specifically looking for solutions that would make a real impact on day-to-day experiences across a range of digital scenarios. These included:

  • location-based physical technology solutions
  • methods for using technology to support the informed citizen
  • new ways for understanding and trusting information
  • connected devices to improve quality of life
  • creative data engineering for social purpose and to provide new insights

Programme 2: Data Science Innovation Co-Lab.

Across the globe, citizens and businesses were pivoting to living with COVID-19. As we adapted to this new normal, GCHQ and UP felt it was more important than ever to protect, support and empower our communities by harnessing the best of technology. 

Inconsistent or biased information can mislead citizens and erode public confidence in the UK’s businesses. Data can be manipulated or falsified for the purpose of fraud, taking advantage of the most vulnerable in our society. Our Data Science Innovation Co-Lab harnessed data science, machine learning and AI techniques helping scaleups with tangible products or services that addressed challenges with

  • Biased, partial or anomalous information
  • The use of open-source data to fill gaps in our perspectives
  • Autonomous data collection across multiple sources, overcoming format differences and contradictions

A unique learning experience

UP Managing Partner, Steven Thomas designed a unique learning experience that took GCHQ and each programme cohort through a practical and creative process. Each interaction was designed to enable knowledge sharing and problem-solving.

  • GCHQ and UP provided unique, tailored technical and business support
  • Structured online and in-person mentoring sessions from a range of experts
  • Access to networks of local government providers, coaches, GCHQ experts
  • The opportunity to pilot solutions and use a unique group to solve problems and test ideas

World-class Cohorts and results

UP were able to recruit two high-quality cohorts that were amongst the best that GCHQ had worked with in any previous programme in any location across the UK. Throughout each programme, GCHQ mentors were able to learn from the talented group scouted by UP Ventures and were able to take these learnings into their own work. Each business that made up our cohorts benefitted massively from the practical problem-solving frameworks that makes an UP programme work. Many have gone onto win commercial contracts and/or valuable investment to aid their growth.

Successful participants included Bellrock Technology, which was included in the G-Cloud 12 framework as a data analytics supplier for the UK government. As well as Journey Protector, a developer of technology that helps prevent cargo theft and human trafficking in the logistics industry, led by CEO Anne Lawlor, which has secured significant funding since completing the programme.

Read more about our Safer Citizen Cohort

Read more about our Data Science Co-Lab Cohort

These businesses have real potential to improve people’s lives in an increasingly digitally connected world, from helping the elderly to reducing emissions.

We’re excited to be supporting the thriving technology ecosystem in Greater Manchester, connecting ingenious entrepreneurs and creative technologists with the mission of GCHQ to help tackle some of our hardest challenges.

Gav Smith, GCHQ’s Director General for Technology
Think. Inspire. Do.
Grappling with an innovation challenge, interested in our future programmes or just want some good ol' fashioned inspiration?
Get in touch
Sign up for our newsletter
©Copyright 2023 UP | All Rights Reserved