‘Safety Tech is going global’ – industry leaders hail potential of Safety Tech sector
UK Export Minister Mike Freer, former head of National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) Ciaran Martin and psychologist Professor Mary Aiken were among those highlighting the potential of the UK and global Safety Tech sector at a launch event for the UK Safety Tech Providers Directory.
Investing in online safety technologies is a “strategic and economic fit for doing the right thing”, former head of NCSC Professor Ciaran Martin has told more than 100 global investors and trade specialists.
Speaking at the launch of the latest edition of the UK Safety Tech Providers Directory in January 2022, Professor Martin compared the potential of the emerging Safety Tech sector with that of the $200bn cybersecurity sector, highlighting how market and innovation-focused approaches can help governments achieve policy objectives, and drive online safety, security and prosperity.
“We reached a stage on the cybersecurity journey when we realised the harm was clear enough, but we also recognised a bunch of things we were doing that weren’t quite working,” Professor Martin said. “And we realised that in essence we were shouting at people. We were saying “Do Better! Stop causing harm! Stop letting harm happen! Try harder!”. And public policy, economic incentives and market forces don’t work like that.
“And so what we’ve tried to do in cybersecurity, and what those in the Safety Tech sector are doing, is steering us away from a similar shouting phase in online harms… Changes in the way we innovate, the way we market, the way we buy and sell, will help to fix the problem… and the UK is at the forefront of this.”
The launch event for the UK Safety Tech Providers Directory also saw a host of other leading industry figures join Professor Martin in highlighting the potential of the Safety Tech sector.
Introducing the event, DIT Minister of Exports Mike Freer highlighted the UK Safety Tech sector’s 40% yearly revenue growth rate and its 25% share of global market, hailing it as “truly a Great British success story, and it embodies our standing as a science and technology superpower”.
“Fostering an inclusive internet is a moral imperative, and that is why the need and demand for safety technologies across the world is only going to grow”, Minister Freer said. “I’m proud that British businesses are spearheading this international movement to bring about a safer internet.”
Professor Mary Aiken added a global perspective, highlighting the recent release of a Paladin report into the billion-dollar US Safety Tech market. “Safety Tech is now going global. We’ve presented at the G7, the Future Tech Forum, a UN event,” Professor Aiken said. “We’re building momentum, the movement is growing”.
Attendees also heard from representatives of some of the 100+ companies featured in the Safety Tech Providers Directory, which features an easy-to-read categorisation of Safety Tech providers, products and services. These included Ian Stevenson, Chair of the Online Safety Tech Industry Association and CEO of Cyan, Julie Dawson, Director of Regulatory & Policy at Yoti, John-Orr Hanna, CIO of Crisp, Sharon Pursey, Co-Founder of SafeToNet and CEO of the SafeToNet Foundation, and Lyric Jain, CEO of Logically. The event was hosted by Suki Fuller, who has been identified by the Financial Times as one of the leading 100 Black, Asian, Minority, Ethnic (BAME) Leaders in UK Tech.
To watch a recording of the event, follow the link or click on the player below. Verbatim transcripts of the speeches by Mike Freer MP, Mary Aiken and Ciaran Martin follow.
Mike Freer MP, Minister for Exports, Department of International Trade
“The Safety Tech sector is truly a Great British success story, and it embodies our standing as a science and technology superpower. So I am delighted we are coming together to launch the latest edition of the UK Safety Tech Providers Directory.
“The UK is home to world-class, fast-growing and dynamic Safety Tech firms. Last year their number exceeded 100, and they employed over 2,200 full time staff. Across the sector, revenues increased by almost 40%, taking them to over £300m. It’s quite remarkable that UK companies account for approximately a quarter of the global market share, and that more than half of them have an international presence. Your hard work and innovation has built us a clear strategic advantage in safety technology.
“Social media giants, gaming platforms and governments across the world are looking for products and services to detect and address harmful and illegal online content, and this gives us an opportunity to export even more. The UK was a global first mover to place legal obligations on companies to create safer online environments. The draft Online Safety Bill contains a broad range of proposals to tackle online harms and bring perpetrators to justice. At the G7, we used our presidency to put online harms firmly on the international agenda. We know that safety technology will play a key role in supporting compliance with the new regulations. And so the government has been investing in a series of practical measures to grow the UK and international Safety Tech sector further.
“The Safety Tech Providers Directory, which we’ll use to promote the British Safety Tech sector to companies and investors across the world, is just one example of our work. We have also established the Safety Tech Innovation Network, the Safety Tech Data Initiative, and the Safety Tech Challenge Fund.
“Fostering an inclusive internet is a moral imperative, and that is why the need and demand for safety technologies across the world is only going to grow. I’m proud that British businesses are spearheading this international movement to bring about a safer internet, and I am confident the sector will continue to thrive in the years ahead.”
Ciaran Martin, former CEO of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC)
“The UK is really onto something here. Safety Tech is not cybersecurity, which is where my expertise comes from as 6 years setting up and leading NCSC, but there are all sorts of commonalities on the journey.
“The first is the importance of the human factor. But the second point is the way we think about this. We reached a stage on the cybersecurity journey a few years ago when we realised the harm was clear enough, but we also recognised a bunch of things we were doing that weren’t quite working. And we realised that in essence we were shouting at people. We were saying “Do Better! Stop causing harm! Stop letting harm happen! Try harder!”. And public policy and economic incentives and market forces don’t work like that. They just don’t.
“And so what we’ve tried to do in cybersecurity in the UK with some successes, and what those in the Safety Tech sector are doing, is steering us away from a similar shouting phase in online harms. We all know the harms are there, the evidence is clear, and while pressure has its place, just saying to people “try harder, do better, don’t let harm happen” just won’t strategically fix the problem. Changes in the way we innovate, the way we market, the way we buy and sell – that WILL fix the problem. We know that. So I think we are right to move out of that phase, and the UK is at the forefront of this.
“And there are three reasons why this works. The first is that it’s the right thing to do. That’s the most important. It’s absolutely morally, socially, it’s for all our benefit – it’s the right thing. The second is that it’s serious business. It’s good for growth, it’s good for innovation.
“And the third is that at a time when we’re challenged by rival technospheres that are more authoritarian, this way of building confidence in an internet that is free and saves people from harm, is something that can help us forge the alliances we need, and can reinforce relationships with people like the US. And so this is a strategic and economic fit for doing the right thing. And so it’s something the UK is right to get behind – and I’m delighted to pay tribute to colleagues in DCMS and DIT for facilitating this.
“So that’s all optimistic. But if it wasn’t hard, it would have been done by now. And aspects of it are controversial. Certainly you need transparency, and you need to build public trust. And the government in funding things like the Safety Tech Challenge Fund is going to explain what these outcomes are, how these innovations aren’t going to be misused. So we need to look at the barriers to what we’re trying to achieve, but we need to keep the momentum. This is of vital importance”.
Professor Mary Aiken, Professor of Cyberpsychology
“I’m a professor of cyberpsychology, and I work worldwide in the field of online safety technology. And I can absolutely state that the UK is leading worldwide in terms of scoping out what can only be described as a spectrum of harms, ranging from cyberbullying through to harassment, abuse, hate speech and mis- and disinformation.
“Building from that I was involved in a research project commissioned by Ofcom in which we created the first classification system of online harms, creating categories and organising harms in an evidence-based way in specific categories, with a view to finding technical solutions. For example, you have a ‘sexual’ category which includes sexting, grooming and CSAM. You have ‘aggression’ which includes hate speech and harassment. And you have ‘manipulation’ which would include mis and disinformation, and deep fakes. You have self-injurious behaviour, and cyber deviant classification.
“So effectively what’s important to recognise is that online harms have the characteristics of big data in terms of volume, velocity and variety. And therefore we need to develop safety tech solutions to technology-facilitated harmful, illegal and problematic behaviour. So I’ve been involved from the beginning with establishing the UK Safety Tech sector, and more recently working as an advisor to Paladin Capital in which we have published a report into the US ecosystem. We found evidence of a thriving, emerging sector – a billion-dollar market opportunity. So basically Safety Tech is now going global. We’ve presented at the G7, the Future Tech Forum, a UN event – we’re building momentum, the movement is growing.
“So I’ll just finish by saying that I’m a specialist in human factors in cybersecurity. Often I’m asked what’s the difference between cybersecurity and safety tech. Cybersecurity protects data, systems and networks. It does not protect what it is to be human online. Cyber safety, or Safety Tech, protects what it is to be human online. We want our systems to be robust, resilient, safe and secure. But we also want the humans who operate those systems to be psychologically resilient, robust, safe and secure”.