About Shooting Star

We are working with the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) to find companies who can offer best in class research and potential solutions in the area of resilient hardware. Specifically, novel architectures and technologies to protect against the highest threats.

This is an opportunity to experiment and think outside the box with new hardware resilience ideas, or repurposing existing solutions or ideas used in other sectors to improve the resilience of high assurance products.

Apply to join if you are an organisation confident in your research capabilities, with fresh, differentiated thinking, and ideas that enhance technology flexibility.

If you understand the critical importance for the UK to explore new technology and approaches which support diverse resilient products and enable highly secure modern ways of working.

That you are keen to develop research proposals that are novel, robust, functional and scalable, with due consideration to risks and limitations.

And if you have experience in hardware and product development, working with partners, familiarity with legacy architectures, skills in product resilience, and can innovate within legal, security and commercial constraints.

The challenge brief

The National Cyber Security Centre is looking to fund and build relationships with partners who are interested in undertaking research into resilient hardware. To answer the question:

“What new ideas in resilient hardware for safety and security-critical applications can make products’ security more innovative, diverse and cost-effective to protect the UK’s most sensitive systems?”

Benefits

Shooting Star offers successful applicants the following benefits:

  • A unique opportunity to research and discuss solutions in-depth with key stakeholders from the NCSC.
  • Undertaking a funded research programme, exploring developments and broadening the cyber-security skills of your staff, which your company may have discounted due to commercial constraints.
  • In-depth and valuable feedback from experts across the country in cyber security.
  • Access, visibility, and potential opportunities within the product resilience sector.
  • Funding for your research and collaboration of up to £80K (excl. VAT) for a 3 to 9 month research programme.
  • Become an associated partner of the new ecosystem being created around future cyber-product resilience by Digital Catapult.

Who should apply and company requirements

Companies should apply who:

Hardware research

Offer innovative research that could help improve the resilience, security or agility of critical systems.

Sector experience

Have experience working with resilient hardware including in any of the following sectors:
Automotive, aerospace, critical network infrastructure, power generation (e.g. nuclear power plant systems), chemical plants, medical equipment, or cyber security.

Market awareness

Are aware of market trends and high assurance design guidelines.

Hardware experience

Have staff with experience developing hardware.

High security standards

Have experience working with high-security standards and company information protection.

Cryptography

May have experience working with hardware supported cryptography.

Research transfer

Are willing to transfer the intellectual property of the research outcome to the NCSC, which is open to discussion in exceptional cases.

UK Registered company

Are registered as a UK company with a physical office in the UK.

UK Banking

Use a business bank account in the UK.

Government security checks

Are willing to undergo Government security checks as required for their companies and staff, including declaring any overseas workers or board members.

Shooting Star FAQs

  • What are the objectives of Shooting Star?

    The objectives of Shooting Star-Experiment are to:

    • Allow organisations the chance to work with NCSC on a funded research programme, to provide novel research and potential solutions on architectures and technologies around resilient hardware for safety and security-critical applications, to reduce high threat scenarios for the UK.
    • Allow organisations the chance to think outside the box with new ideas for resilient hardware, or repurposing existing solutions or ideas used in other sectors to improve the resilience of high assurance products.
  • What is the significance of Shooting Star?

    This is a unique opportunity to research and discuss solutions in-depth with key stakeholders from the NCSC. Successful applicants will receive support, including funding, to conduct this highly innovative and experimental research. Not only will you have access to funding for your research, you will have the unique opportunity to work alongside experts in the field, and to develop with NCSC, a central government body. The hope is that any successful applicants will be able to make use of this unique opportunity to foster a continued relationship with the ecosystem, long after the research has concluded.

  • Who is eligible to apply?

    Applicants must have a registered business entity in the UK, and a UK bank account. Applicants must have first-rate research capabilities, able to offer breakthrough research that could help improve agility, management of critical systems, protection of sensitive network data, and assure hardware works properly. They should understand the critical importance for the UK to explore new technology and approaches which support diverse resilient products and enable highly secure modern ways of working, and be keen to develop research proposals to find novel and robust answers to these challenges. 

    Applicants should have experience in any of the following sectors: automotive, aerospace, critical network infrastructure, power generation (e.g. nuclear power plant systems), chemical plants, medical equipment, utility markets, and/or cyber security. They must also have experience developing resilient hardware, working with high-security standards and information protection protocols. Companies across all sectors researching or working on technologies and solutions that can answer the challenge question are welcome to apply – there is no specific sector that is being focused on.

  • What stage should companies be?

    Companies from any stage are welcome to apply, be they startups, scaleups, SMEs, or large organisations. This programme is about finding new innovative ideas, no matter how big or small. The only requirement is that the size of your research project be one that your team can adequately handle and deliver.

  • What will I be doing if I am successful in getting into this research programme?

    Carrying out the proposed research in your own facilities, to answer the initial challenge question around accessing new ideas in resilient hardware for safety and security critical applications. This research proposal should detail the expected duration and outcomes (estimated to be between 3 to 9 months).

  • What will NCSC’s role be in the programme?

    As the Authority, NCSC will be responsible for contracting organisations onto this programme, and will then support with guiding the development of the research, as well as providing feedback and expertise. NCSC will provide an internal point of contact for the successful participant to discuss their proposals, and are willing to provide technical expertise to support participants throughout their research, for example discussing the merits of a proposed course of action or providing comments/feedback on results.

  • What is Digital Catapult’s role in this programme?

    Digital Catapult has supported the design and operational aspects of this programme, with specific regard to challenge definitions, ecosystem mapping, scouting, and the Open Call process. Going forward, Digital Catapult will continue to act as facilitator and advisor as to the process of running this programme, and will also be available to advise and provide insights to participants regarding other opportunities within Digital Catapult that may be relevant to their business.

  • What about IP of any solutions?

    This is a funded research programme; in essence, NCSC is paying for research to be done on their behalf. As such, all new IP generated as a result of this programme will become the property of NCSC. Applicants must be willing to transfer the intellectual property of the research outcome to the NCSC, although they are open to discussion in exceptional cases.

  • How many applications can I submit?

    You can submit multiple applications as an organisation, but each submission must come from a different email address, as the submission platform will not accept multiple applications from the same email address. If you do submit multiple applications, please highlight how the different applications relate to and complement one another, if applicable.

  • Where will the programme be held?

    All communications, meetings, check-ins, and progress updates will be held online unless informed beforehand. All research will be conducted by the participants at their own facilities, and it is not expected that there will be the need to visit NCSC or any other facilities. However, this may be open for discussion on an individual-case-by-case basis, depending on the research proposed and the specific requirements therein.

  • What are the key dates for the programme?

    The following dates are key to the programme: 

    • The following dates are key to the programme:
    • Application goes live – 16th Feb
    • Office Hours (for applicants to ask any questions they may have) – 23rd Feb
    • Webinar – w/c 21st March [TBC]
    • Office Hours (for applicants to ask any questions they may have) – 23rd March
    • Application closes – 3rd April
    • Judging Period – 4th-15th April
    • Invitations to Pitch – 18th April
    • Pitch Days – 25th , 26th and 28th of April
    • Companies Selection – 5th May

    Please note – these dates are subject to change.

  • Are there any other programme terms I need to know?

    Key terms for this programme are:

    • Organisations must be registered as a UK company with a physical office in the UK, and use a business bank account in the UK.
    • Organisations must be in a position to enter into a contract with NCSC
    • Organisations must be willing to declare any overseas workers or board members.
    • Organisations must acknowledge the transfer of any Intellectual Property created through the research to NCSC (open to discussion in exceptional cases)
    • Organisations are expected to have and maintain an appropriate level of cyber security
    • Organisations must be willing to abide by the programme’s Terms & Conditions, which can be found here.
  • What are the different phases of the application process and what is expected of me?
    Phase 1: Programme submission
    • Register on the open call page and receive an email with the link to the full application.
    • Submission of a written submittable application to the research challenge by 23:59 UK time on the 3rd of April 2022.
    • Round 1 – Judges will review applications, and will notify successful applicants of their desire to progress the applicant to round 2, and will also provide feedback on the initial application. Applicants will then have 2 days to update their application, to incorporate this feedback.  Also, selected applicants who pass this review will be asked to enter into a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with NCSC. Once the NDA is signed, shortlisted applicants will be provided with a draft programme agreement (“Programme Agreement”) setting out the contractual terms which apply to the Programme, and will progress to the next stage of the application process.
    • Round 2 – Judges will then review the amended applications, and will select the final applicants to progress to the Pitching session.
    Phase 2: Pitching session
    • For shortlisted companies, a presentation of your proposed research, including proposed methodology and identified risks, to a panel of judges relevant to the programme.
    • Final selection of the participation companies will be made after the pitching session.
    .
    Phase 3: Successful offer of a place on research programme and contracting
    • You will be informed of the outcome of the application, and if successful, we will offer you a place on the programme.
    • You will then be asked to confirm your place and sign the T&Cs and Programme Agreement. The successful applicant will then enter into a contract directly with NCSC.
  • What are the different selection criteria I will be evaluated on?
    • Relevance to challenge
      • The application should clearly fit with the topic of pushing boundaries in resilient hardware, not just software, while also demonstrating a clear understanding of the associated risks. 
    • Novelty of idea
      • The proposed research should focus on developing new and innovative ideas, rather within existing ideas and frameworks. 
    • Team experience, expertise, and commitment
      • The proposed research team should be able to conduct this research, drawing on expertise in hardware development, resilient product design, and security product development. They should also demonstrate openness to learn and collaborate. 
    • Feasibility of the research idea
      • The proposed research should be demonstrated to be feasible, from a physical, technological, and financial perspective.
      • The proposed research must also demonstrate its value for money, while also balancing risk to ensure the level of risk is not too high.
    • Applicability and Scalability
      • The application should demonstrate that the results of the research will be able to be practically used in the future design and development of real-word products.
    • Robustness and Functionality
      • The application should demonstrate an idea that has the potential to add robustness and resilience to products, without reducing usability or security. Any potential risks in this regard should be outlined.
  • Are there any other specific requirements I should be aware of?

    Participants will not require security clearances but must be prepared to share the personal information of those associated with the research if requested. They will also need to ensure the effective management and review of staff with access to Authority data to ensure such data is protected. In addition, data management must be strictly enforced across all systems and devices.

  • What happens after the programme?

    After this programme, all participants will have access to Digital Catapult’s Alumni network, and will receive further updates regarding future programmes that might be of interest, webinars, and other business opportunities. 

    With regards to the research, this will end with a review of the deliverables and a typical project close-down type session. From a commercial relationship perspective this will mark the closure of the relationship. For participants that have made a good impression for whatever reason (work ethic, areas of research, deliverables etc), NCSC may wish to maintain a relationship with them, should they wish to progress any further (new) research and/or further development tasks. The participant will have benefited by already having been ‘onboarded’ with their commercial process; as such, any future work would be more straightforward (although this is not strictly guaranteed).

Programme Competition Terms Shooting Star, February 2022.

The criteria for being selected to participate in the research programme includes:

  • The novelty of your proposed research idea
  • Focused on hardware resilience, not just software
  • Team expertise, experience, and commitment
  • Feasibility of the research proposed
  • Applicability and scalability of the research proposed
  • Robustness and functionality
  • Openness to learn and collaborate
  • Communicating the thought process behind the solutions
  • Consideration of risks, uncertainties and dependencies
  • Value for money (based on a costed proposal and outcomes)
  • Meeting the security requirements

 

Companies can make multiple applications, making reference to how different applications are related if applicable. However different emails will need to be used for each application.

How to apply and next steps

  1. To apply, each applicant will need to register their interest using our registration form.
  2. Applicants will receive a follow-up email with a link to the application form through Submittable.
  3. Applicant teams will need to complete the application form by 23:59 on 03 April 2022 to be considered for the programme.

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