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British spy agency launches ‘Safe Citizen’ startup accelerator, new base in Manchester

GCHQ is launching another accelerator in Manchester while opening a new high tech base in the city

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British spy agency GCHQ is committed to expanding its presence in Manchester, launching a Safe Citizen startup accelerator and a new high tech base in the city.

“The accelerator is for companies registered as a UK company, with an active presence in the UK”

Safe Citizen is a tightly focused four-month accelerator program for startups and established SMEs with creative products that “will make a tangible social impact around citizen safety,” according to the British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), in an announcement on Saturday.

The day after announcing the new accelerator, GCHQ revealed on Sunday that hundreds of its staff will eventually be based at Heron House in Manchester City Center’s Albert Square later this year, but GCHQ mentioned the new acceleration program would have workshops taking place in Media City UK primarily.

Startups selected for the Safe Citizen accelerator will develop their own commercial solutions, but they will not enter commercial agreements with GCHQ, and the deadline for British startups to apply is November 8.

Take a look at the following solutions, and you can make up your own mind on why a spy agency would be interested in supporting startups and their technologies for “citizen safety.”

GCHQ is looking for technological solutions along the lines of:

  • Safety-focused IoT products and services for next-generation networks, including 5G
  • 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

“The ‘Safe Citizens’ theme for the accelerator combines our passion for exploring innovative cutting-edge technology, and our desire to make a real contribution to the region,” said GCHQ’s Deputy Director for Manchester, whose name was not given.

The 16-week accelerator program will welcome submissions that provide “life impact” solutions for vulnerable groups across the region, empowering and connecting citizens through ingenious use of technology.

“GCHQ were really interested in tapping into technologies that maybe they don’t play with a lot”

For a previous GCHQ accelerator in Manchester, program manager Sarah Martin told The Sociable, “GCHQ were really interested in tapping into technologies that maybe they don’t play with a lot. They were interested in genuinely giving back to the startup ecosystem in Manchester. It all roots back to Manchester, and it’s a really important message, and I think it’s a nice message as well.”

Read More: What happens when British intelligence partners with a global innovation hub

Back in April, GCHQ was interested in the methodologies of the startups, their technologies, and thematic synergies with companies working on:

  • Creating a behavior canvas that covers the entirety of the UK
  • Using psychometric culture-fit while taking unconscious bias out of matching great candidates to suitable roles
  • Controlling all your home automation gadgets in a 3D model of your home
  • Using GPS to connect you to somebody else nearby 

“We’re excited to help bring another initiative to the market that has the potential to make a meaningful impact on people’s lives”

Now, for the first time in recent history, the new GCHQ accelerator in Manchester will not be in partnership with Wayra.

Danny Meaney
Danny Meaney

Read More: UK spy agency that violated human rights to launch startup accelerator in Manchester

This time, the new acceleration program will be a joint venture with The Landing, a tech mentorship company, and global tech accelerator UP Ventures.

“We’re excited to help bring another initiative to the market that has the potential to make a meaningful impact on people’s lives through applied technology here in Greater Manchester and the North West,” said UP Ventures CEO Danny Meaney, in a statement.

Competing against a number of high-quality submissions, The Landing won a procurement competition run by GCHQ earlier this year.

The competition was run in accordance with normal GCHQ procurement procedure.

Dan Sodergren
Dan Sodergren

“Using technology for good is something we are incredibly passionate about”

“This is a significant opportunity for companies to explore how a ‘Smart City’ can work for its customers,” said Dan Sodergren, Head of Business Services at The Landing, in a statement.

“Using technology for good is something we are incredibly passionate about and we are excited to receive applications from those who can really make a positive difference to all of our lives in the 21st century,” he added.

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Tim Hinchliffe
Tim Hinchliffe is the editor of The Sociable. His passions include writing about how technology impacts society and the parallels between Artificial Intelligence and Mythology. Previously, he was a reporter for the Ghanaian Chronicle in West Africa and an editor at Colombia Reports in South America. tim@sociable.co