£2.75m acquisition of CyberASAP startup demonstrates potential and importance of academic commercialisation

Posted on: 08/06/2021

Crossword Cybersecurity Plc acquires Verifiable Credentials, provider of Identiproof™, boosting prospects for Covid-19 Status Certificates.

Crossword Cybersecurity Plc (CCP), the technology commercialisation company focused on cyber security and risk management, has announced its acquisition of CyberASAP Alumnus, Verifiable Credentials Limited (VCL). The company is the provider of Identiproof™, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) verifiable credentials compatible middleware and wallet technology.

Identiproof, VCL’s middleware technology suite of products, is a key component in verifiable credentials systems such as COVID-19 status certificates and their issuer, verifier, and wallet applications. Identiproof is currently being used in a UK Government funded trial of COVID-19 certificates – in which Crossword is also involved – for East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust (EKHUFT).

Verifiable Credentials Ltd received funding through Innovate UK’s COVID-19 Fast Start Competition, which aimed to fast-track the development of business-led innovations which could support the fight against coronavirus. This funding has enabled innovative solutions to be scaled up at speed, bolstering the UK’s resilience to this outbreak and driving the economic recovery.

VCL is the brainchild of former University of Kent academic, Professor David Chadwick (pictured above), and started life as a research project with commercial potential that was selected to participate in the Cyber Security Academic Startup Accelerator Programme (CyberASAP) in 2019/20.

Showcasing his Proof of Concept to an industry audience at the programme’s Demo Day in February 2020, Chadwick commented “I see this as the culmination of all my 20 years of research”.

The commercialisation of that research was accelerated by CyberASAP, a programme set up in 2017 specifically to provide the tools and skills necessary for converting academic research into commercial products/services. CyberASAP – funded by the UK Government Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport – is delivered by KTN in partnership with Innovate UK.

Over the 11 month programme, KTN delivers a wide range of interventions to the academic teams (114 have participated in the programme so far), preparing them for life beyond the lab. From the initial market validation stage through to developing a proof of concept, creating a brand, deepening marketing knowledge and fine tuning their presentations and pitching skills, CyberASAP provides a comprehensive package of knowledge and support drawing on the expertise of KTN’s programme Directors, Emma Fadlon and Robin Kennedy as well as their wide network of specialist “mentors”.

One of those is Jake Holloway, Crossword Cybersecurity’s Chief Product Officer, who provides training to CyberASAP’s cohorts and maintains close relationships with the programme’s alumni.

It was via the programme that Holloway and Chadwick were introduced, as Chadwick recalls:

I first met CCP when Jake Holloway and his team gave a number of sessions on marketing to our CyberASAP cohort. At the time, I asked him if he would like to work for VCL. Whilst politely declining, nevertheless we stayed in touch, and Jake joined me in a successful bid to Innovate UK on a project entitled “Covid-19 Certificates for ALL” along with East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust.

“I guess that when Jake learned more about VCL and our leading work with verifiable credentials and the NHS, this encouraged him to ask his board to acquire the company. This is a win-win for both of us as CCP brings the much needed marketing expertise to VCL’s technical excellence.”

Tom Ilube, CEO of Crossword Cybersecurity plc, commented: “VCL has unique knowledge and a fantastic product in the new era of W3C verifiable credentials – which can and should power COVID certificates as well as all manner of digital, secure and privacy-respecting credentials, certificates, tickets and proofs of ownership. We know Professor Chadwick and his start-up team well from CyberASAP and believe Identiproof is a perfect fit for Crossword as our third product.”

Emma Fadlon, co-director of CyberASAP at KTN, said: “It’s fantastic to see such a successful outcome for one of our Alumnus in a very short period of time. This not only demonstrates the quality of the product and the proposition, but also shows how important a role these early stage companies can play in the ecosystem – they’re smart and agile enough to pivot and respond to changing market needs and VCL’s work with Covid-19 certificates is a real case in point”.

VCL is not the first CyberASAP Alumnus to have been acquired: Google snapped up GraphicsFuzz, a graduate of the second CyberASAP cohort, in 2018. Now in its fifth year the programme has also led to the creation of 21 companies to date. Between them they have raised more than £11million in further funding to develop their cybersecurity productsand services, demonstrating the key role the programme plays in populating the pipeline of ideas and startups so vital to this growing sector.

Get involved in CyberASAP

If you are an Academic or University Technology Transfer Officer, Industrialist, investor or have an interest in being involved or supporting the CyberASAP programme in any way, please provide your details here so that we can make sure you’re updated with the relevant information.

If you’d like to know more about the CyberASAP programme please contact Robin Kennedy or Emma Fadlon.

Connect with us:

Email: cyberasap@iuk.ktn-uk.org

Follow us on Twitter @CyberASAP.

Linked In: www.linkedin.com/showcase/cyberasap

CyberASAP is funded by the UK Government Department for Digital, Culture Media & Sport (DCMS) and delivered in partnership by Innovate UK and KTN.

Further details of the VCL acquisition are available on the Crossword Cybersecurity site here, and an interview with Jake Holloway on this is here.

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