UK leads the world in providing tech to keep us safe online
The UK’s safety tech sector, which develops solutions to keep people safe online, has seen a rapid expansion in the past year, with new analysis published today by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT).
The ‘Safety Tech Sector 2023’ analysis found that the UK’s 130-firm strong sector has seen a 16% increase in the number of full-time roles in safety tech and secured £64 million of investment in the last year – supporting the government’s priority to grow our economy and create new jobs.
To further support this burgeoning industry, which holds 25% of the international safety tech market, DSIT is also announcing that over £350,000 will be shared between three UK safety tech firms to further develop tools to identify and combat the sharing of links to child sexual abuse material online.
Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy Paul Scully MP said: “The UK’s safety tech sector is not only delivering on our priority to grow the economy and create jobs but holds the world-leading expertise needed to support our ambitions to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online – for both children and adults.
“With a quarter of the world’s safety tech firms thriving in the UK, it’s a shining example of the rapid progress we are making to becoming a tech superpower by 2030.”
The funding comes as the second iteration of the Department’s ‘Safety Tech Challenge Fund’ which is run in partnership with the Home Office and GCHQ and delivered by Innovate UK.
The three projects, which will run until the end of February 2024 before presenting their results to DSIT, are:
- Centre for Factories of the Future – The ‘CSAM Guard’ tool will use advanced machine learning to detect the use of modified or shortened links to share child sexual abuse material online.
- Vistalworks – This firm is currently tackling the illegal trading of medicines and other products. Vistalworks will use its skills and learning to develop solutions that can identify and disrupt the sharing of child sexual abuse links.
- CameraForensics – The LinkForensics project will develop a process to find the end destination for a given link, looking at its characteristics to provide a rating or confidence measure that allows appropriate action to be taken.
Sector revenue has grown by 20% just in the last year and is on track to hit £1 billion by the mid- 2020s. From being able to detect and help to prevent online fraud, providing technology to conduct age assurances, the UK safety tech sector provides platforms and people with the tools they need to keep online spaces safe.
These technologies support the Government’s ambitions to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online, while defending the right to free expression and securing the UK’s leadership in the fight against online harms. As part of these ambitions, the Government has developed the Online Safety Bill, legislation that holds technology companies accountable for keeping their users, particularly children, safe.
Will Dury, Interim Executive Director Digital, and Technologies at Innovate UK said: “Innovate UK are delighted to partner with the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology and GCHQ on this important programme. Our innovative companies have a huge part to play to ensure that the UK is kept safe online and that the most vulnerable in society are protected.
“The UK is home to some of the world’s most innovative companies and with Innovate UK’s help they can create new products and services which support regulation, and allow our digital sector to benefit the economy and society.”