A new government report has shown the UK’s cybersecurity sector attracted record levels of investment last year as the global coronavirus pandemic led to more people and businesses working online.

More than £800m was invested in the sector and the number of active cyber security firms in the UK increased 21 per cent with almost 50,000 people are now employed in UK cybersecurity.

The DCMS Annual Cyber Sector Report, which tracks the UK’s cybersecurity industry across a range of indicators between April 2019 and December 2020, reveals a 21 per cent increase in firms operating in the field, bringing the total number to 1,483.

There was a nine per cent rise in employment in the industry with more than 3,800 new full time jobs created, bringing the total number of people working in the sector to 46,683.

The sector is now worth an estimated £8.9 billion.

Digital Minister Matt Warman, speaking at the CyberASAP online event, said: “The need for cutting-edge cybersecurity has never been greater and this resilient sector is growing, diversifying and solidifying its status as a jewel in the UK’s tech crown.

“With more than 3,800 new jobs created, firms – large and small – are doing vital work keeping people and businesses secure online so we can build back safer from the pandemic. I am committed to supporting the industry to reach new heights, create more jobs and lead new innovations in this field.”

The main findings from the report are:

  • Despite the current economic climate, 2020 was a new record year for cyber security investment with UK cyber security businesses raising over £821 million across 73 deals – more than twice that raised in 2019
  • The sector’s total annual revenue has continued to rise (by 7 per cent), reaching £8.9 billion within the most recent financial year
  • The sector contributed more than £4 billion to the economy – up 6 per cent in the last year, with mainly mature firms driving growth
  • The majority (65 per cent) of the 46,683 cyber workforce are employed by large firms (250+ employees).

This year’s survey also suggests that more than half of firms (54 per cent) are now based outside of London and the South East, with cyber security clusters flourishing across the country in areas such as Scotland, Northern Ireland and North West England.

The most commonly provided cyber security products and services include cyber professional services, threat intelligence, monitoring, detection and analysis. The research highlights particular growth in firms offering solutions for industrial control systems and IoT security, demonstrating the sector’s ability to adapt and meet emerging challenges, such as the need to secure smart cities.

The data reveals that while nine in ten companies (89 per cent) felt Covid-19 had impacted their business, many of these firms have quickly adjusted and innovated within the current economic climate.

Despite some firms in the sector feeling the pressure, many have still found the capacity to offer vital technical support to the NHS, and other critical national services, sometimes on a pro-bono basis.

Edinburgh firm Quorum Cyber helped strengthen the cyber defences of the NHS and local councils during the pandemic and created a number of skilled jobs. Meanwhile SureCert, who have offices in London, Edinburgh and Belfast, helped ensure the rapid deployment of hundreds of Covid volunteers through its background check service.

Ian Savage, Founder and CEO of SureCert, said: “SureCert won one of the TechForce 19 competitions from NHSx in May. This competition provided funding for solutions that could find, background check and deploy hundreds of volunteers to support vulnerable people in communities across Scotland and Northern Ireland. SureCert focused on processing identity, reference and criminal record checks for volunteers, maximising trust during the pandemic.”

Federico Charosky, Managing Director of Quorum Cyber, said: “Quorum Cyber have been incredibly lucky to be in a position to help, both directly and indirectly. Whether it was through providing cyber security services to the public and private sector, including delivering Security Operation Centre and Incident Response capabilities to local authorities and the NHS, or by hiring well over 25 people since the beginning of lockdown, including taking three graduate apprentices. Quorum Cyber continues to pursue our mission: we want to help good people win.”

While the number of cybersecurity firms continued to grow despite the pandemic, the government recognises the importance of making sure small and medium-sized scale-ups can continue to access support to grow in the years ahead.

UK startup businesses driving innovation and development have been helped through the coronavirus outbreak with a £1.25 billion government support package and the government has continued to back cybersecurity start-ups through programmes such as the LORCA cyber accelerator and the NCSC Accelerator to ensure early-stage cyber businesses have the support they need to continue.

The DCMS-funded CyberASAP programme supports the commercialisation of cybersecurity research from UK universities. Its event today will see a fourth cohort of teams demonstrate their new products to an audience of potential customers, investors and other key figures in the cyber security sector.

Julian David, Chief Executive Officer, techUK said: “Reliable Cyber Security is essential for all organisations as they accelerate digital transformation in the wake of ongoing COVID-19 disruption and the UK industry is responding to that need. This research shows a sector going from strength to strength, with increasing investment in our growing cyber ecosystem and, perhaps most significantly, uptake of the technologies and services keeping UK citizens and business safe. “One key finding is that 54% of cyber companies are now based outside London and the South-East, an encouraging change which will improve cyber resilience across all the nations and regions of the UK, as well as sharing the economic prosperity offered by this fast-growing sector. This regional development is one area which techUK will continue to actively partner with DCMS, through initiatives like Cyber Exchange, as Government and industry continue to strengthen the UK’s position as a leading cyber nation.”