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The GCHQ Innovation Co-Lab 2021

Over 5 months, the GCHQ Innovation Co-Lab will give you:

The ability to collaborate with GCHQ’s Innovators and Technologists

We will help you explore new use cases for your products and services, considering how they could be applied in different ways to tackle our emerging challenges.

Investor readiness and introduction support

HOST and its partners will prepare you for investment, and make introductions to the relevant HOST investor partners and networks which include GC Angels, Investor Ladder, and more.

Access to HOST's Industry 4.0 labs and real-world test environments

You will have unprecedented access to the diverse tech ecosystem, HOST Cyber & SOC, IoT technology, UNITY, AI labs, and immersive labs to test innovations and increase your tech readiness levels.

A unique environment that accelerates businesses

You will be introduced to HOST partners and collaborators, benefiting from being a part of a vibrant and diverse community of entrepreneurs.

Membership to the prestigious Co-Lab Alumni community

Those companies who successfully complete the programme, and receive a successful innovation potential assessment, will become part of the GCHQ Co-Lab Alumni community, a growing community of innovative and creative founders from across the UK.

So, is the GCHQ Innovation Co-Lab for you?

This programme is for you if you are developing or have developed innovative technology that fits one of our 3 challenges:

We recognise the increasing uncertainty and unpredictability of the world around us. Models and ‘predictions’ are always subjective and incomplete representations of complex realities. GCHQ wants to plan for this uncertain future in a rapidly shifting geopolitical landscape.

Open-source information, technology, products and services can increasingly help us to unlock complex realities when combined with sensitive information.

  • Are you exploring novel and unusual forms of communications technology, or communications technology beyond the mainstream?


  • Can you figure out seemingly disparate and unconnected events to understand emerging trends and implications sooner using open source data?
  • Can you help evolve models and analysis that help indicate potential future scenarios?
  • Could your product/technology or service help us to notice something that we didn’t know before about society at scale?

We welcome socio-technical approaches, recognising that computation and communication technologies are increasingly integrated with the physical world around us.

If you have answered yes to any of the above, then the Co-Lab could be for you!

GCHQ has a rich history of re-imagining technologies to identify, analyse and disrupt threats in its mission to keep the UK safe.

We are continuously improving our automated translation and transcription capabilities in an increasingly congested and noisy world. We want to relook at more “traditional” methods such as Morse code through a lens of innovation; supported by advances in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

Can your product/service/technology help us:

  • Increase the accuracy of automatic transcription?
  • Develop a software capability that can take an audio file and process this to transcribe the Morse code within into Unicode?
  • Attempt error correction and a confidence score based on any assumptions made?
  • Achieve a level of efficiency that would allow near-real-time processing?

The ideal solution would be software based and compatible with the REDHAWK framework. Java is preferred but the use of Python or C++ would also be acceptable.

If you have answered yes to any of the above, then the Co-Lab could be for you!

Even if you don’t strictly meet challenges 1 and 2, if you think that your company or product presents a shift or innovation in how we process digital information, we would love to hear from you.

Examples might include solutions involving novel hardware and architecture or something we haven’t even thought of yet!

Wow us! This is a rare opportunity to showcase an innovative approach to technology from a unique perspective to help shape the future for the better.


The GCHQ Innovation Co-Lab is an innovation programme, enabling businesses and innovators to pilot new technologies in an alternative market.

The Co-Lab is a programme in partnership with HOST, dedicated innovation partner of GCHQ, who offer innovation support for start-ups and SMEs. It does this by providing an inclusive community of innovators in data, analytics, cybersecurity, AI, gaming and immersive technologies.

We are looking for UK-based digital tech businesses with an innovative and fresh approach to technology and analytics, or who foresee a different use case for their product and/or service.

With our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, we are particularly interested in entrepreneurs from the North West, who are from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds.

We are looking for businesses/innovators with the following attributes:

• Product status: The business should be able to show traction through tangible investment or revenues and have the resources to improve their product and scale over the course of the programme.

• Company size: At least 2 employees. Solo founders are also able to apply but should be able to demonstrate the capacity to innovate.

• Time commitment: Able to commit to a dynamic learning journey over 5 months (delivered in a hybrid style, with both virtual and in-person events) with approximately 2 sessions per week.

This is an extraordinary and tailored opportunity to work with GCHQ technologists and innovators.

We are looking for companies that would most benefit from this experience and are aligned closely to the problem sets outlined. Wildcard applicants are also encouraged to apply where founders believe they are working on something that GCHQ would be interested in.

We will select 5 participants to take part in the Co-Lab, with a particular focus on recruiting North-West based businesses from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds.

Collaborators will include technologists and innovators from GCHQ, experts within the tech industry, business, entrepreneurs and external subject matter experts. A full list of coaches will be shared in due course.

We ask about you, your idea, your team and your company. Don’t hold back, let us know how great you are!

Due diligence will be undertaken on companies applying to the programme, with further criteria being communicated, including the process, as part of the overall application process.

For companies seeking to gain traction in the cyber security sector or seeking cyber security expertise, we would highly recommend the NCSC for Startups programme.

GCHQ do not endorse any innovation, technologist, engineer or business that is taking part in the programme. We collaborate with you to build upon your innovation. There is, however, the opportunity to become part of the growing alumni community of the GCHQ Innovation Co-lab, creating connections across sectors, places and organisations. Should businesses successfully complete the Co-Lab, and receive a successful innovation potential assessment, there is the ability to be part of this community and receive access to the relevant branding.

Funding is not guaranteed as part of this programme. Participants will be introduced to various investor networks during the programme and will be given support on how to raise finance (e.g. GC Angels, Investor Ladder, TiE). We also do not take any equity from the companies taking part.

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