Bridging the Valley of Death

If you're involved in a startup company or tech-transfer then you have probably already heard of the ‘Valley of Death’. For those of us who have never heard the term, the Valley of Death is the gap the exists between an idea and the reality of a commercialised product. There are many great research ideas that look promising on paper, yet for some reason never realise their potential.

Why is this? There are numerous reasons, lack of publicity, lack of funding, overly protective IP licensing or even just poor management of the idea. But whatever the reasons behind it, the gap is real; half of UK startups fail within 5 years. Often these failures aren't due to poor ideas, but instead are down to ineffective implementation.

Cyber security is an industry which suffers acutely from this problem. The field progresses at such a pace, meaning many threat mitigation ideas get left behind as the threat moves on.  It is also hard to find good software engineers who know how to program solutions quickly, innovatively and securely.

Many universities’ technology transfer departments are constrained by resources and expertise in this emerging field, so have limited experience with developing cyber security ideas.  These same issues mean publicising these ideas is not necessarily a priority either, so many of them are left unseen by industry (more on the complexities of technology transfer next week).  To assist in overcoming this problem we built CLUE, our European cyber security research database (see last week’s blog, 'How CLUE').  CLUE is a critical part of our business process, but the information we have put together is also interesting to the wider cyber security industry, so we made it freely available.

By doing so, we have also reached out to heads of IT, Chief Information Security Officers (and the dizzying volume of equivalent titles) to understand the existing and projected needs in the market.

That leaves a bit of a gap in the middle where the product is actually produced and taken to market.  Crossword has a team of specialist cyber security software engineers, based in Kraków.  Their role is to help turn the research into reality by building the products, specified in conjunction with the team in the UK and academic partners.

At Crossword we help bridge the valley of death by combining foundation knowledge of a technology from academics, the technical know-how to build the supporting structure and the business knowledge to lay the route to market.  We provide a mechanism for researchers looking for a pathway to commercialisation.