DCMS study flags up potential of online safety tech market

Government-commissioned report finds growth in number of companies and sector revenues

Credit: QuoteInspector/CC BY-ND 4.0

Safety tech is one of the fastest growing parts of the UK’s technology industry, according to new government research.

An independent report, The UK Safety Tech Sector: 2021 Analysis, commissioned by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, found that revenues in the sector have increased by more than 40% in the past year, reaching £314m.  

The number of safety tech companies has surpassed 100, and there has been a 30% increase in jobs, equating to more than 500 new roles, the report found.

Safety tech is defined as products and services that make online spaces safer. This includes products such as AI programmes that can block illegal content, identify underage users, disrupt the spread of harmful disinformation and help moderators detect abuse. Many leading global brands, including the LEGO Group, Electronic Arts and Roblox, use safety tech products to protect their users.

UK companies make up a quarter of the international market and more than half of these export to international markets.

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Almost three fifths of all UK safety tech jobs are based outside London, with a high-performing hub developing in Edinburgh.

Scottish businesses in the sector include Cyan, a company which finds and blocks harmful content online; DragonflAI, which has developed innovative technology to stop the production of indecent underage imagery; and Jess, which provides training to help keep children and vulnerable adults safe online.

Last year saw the launch of the Online Safety Tech Industry Association (OSTIA) and of an innovation network designed to help companies share best practice. The UK also hosted Safety Tech 2021, a world-first expo event to showcase how technology can be used to support safer online communities.

In March 2021, G7 countries announced a commitment to supporting safety tech growth and innovation as part of the Internet Safety Principles.

The government also recently published its draft Online Safety Bill, which gives online companies a new legal duty of care to protect their users, particularly children, from harm. Products being delivered by UK safety tech providers can help companies meet their new duties under the bill.

Digital minister Caroline Dinenage said: “The stellar growth we’ve seen shows how the UK is at the forefront of using technology to solve problems around how online companies protect their users. Through our groundbreaking new laws, and with our safety tech sector going from strength to strength, we are paving the way for people to have a better relationship with the online world.”

Ian Stevenson, CEO of Cyan and chair of the OSTIA added: “The report highlights that the UK safety tech sector is thriving.  As the threat grows, innovators and determined tech creators are finding new ways to support organisations in their efforts to better protect children online, identify abuse and flag harmful content.

“At a time where the exponential growth of technology is seen as a problem, the UK safety tech sector provides solutions to limit online harm at pace and encourages more talented individuals to join the sector as they know that their work will effect change, benefiting and protecting countless people.”


Sam Trendall

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