Business Reporter – Helping SMEs gain access to multinational supply chains

The Virtual Technology Cluster Group, which launched in March this year, is an organisation that brings together key elements of the UK’s technology ecosystem enabling tech start-ups and SMEs to scale up and gain access to the supply chains of multinational companies.

The first application of the virtual technology cluster (VTC) model launched in partnership with Lockheed Martin in 2015. The VTC group created an environment for tech firms operating in the cyber security and data analytics space to initiate joint ventures and R&D partnerships with major multinationals in order to gain access to much larger supply chains.

One standout success of this first VTC was Osirium, a UK based cyber security software provider that protects critical IT assets. In partnership with Lockheed Martin, it was able to benefit from exposure to more than 200 Lockheed customers and participate in successful fundraising with technology merchant bank Restoration Partners’ Alpha Angels. With such impressive backing for its scale up drive, Osirium was able to complete a successful initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange’s AIM market in April this year.

This was just one of several successes to come out of the Lockheed Martin VTC with a total of three innovative SMEs gaining access to Lockheed Martin’s supply chains.  Together, these demonstrate that while technology clusters may be virtual, they deliver tangible results.

With 74 per cent of the UK’s digital businesses located outside London, innovative firms cannot as easily benefit from the powerful network effect and big corporation synergies of tech firms in densely interconnected start-up hubs like Silicon Valley.

The Virtual Technology Cluster Group aims to solve this problem through the creation of a virtual hub, which helps the most important players in the UK’s technology ecosystem. From universities, investors and tech firms, to major industry players like Lockheed Martin and EMC, all can reap the benefits of collaboration and partnership.

The VTC model was developed after extensive market research into accelerators, incubators, venture capital, government programmes, research labs – like the MIT Media Lab – and Google campus. Positioned as a complementary addition to these existing platforms, it cherry picked the best features of what was available and drew it into a unique single operating.

The attraction for large corporations to sponsor a VTC is that they are able to benefit from joint ventures or other collaborations with disruptive, innovative smaller companies. Tech SMEs and start-ups benefit from access to the supply chains, R&D and expertise of the multinationals. To help drive these relationships, the technology SMEs are supported by leading advisors with expertise in areas including IP protection and business scaling.

As a result of the success of the Lockheed Martin VTC, the VTC Group is in the process of expanding its footprint into new sectors and geographies. While the first virtual technology cluster focused primarily on cyber security and data analytics, there is a tremendous opportunity to expand the model into new fields. Healthcare is one example where there is real room for innovation to offer radical improvements.

As Auriol Stevens, CEO of the VTC Group and founder of the VTC model, commented at the launch of the VTC Group earlier this year: “With the success of the first VTC, we are excited now to apply the benefits of this new model to other sectors such as healthcare, sustainability, fintech, compliance software, smart mobility and the urban Internet of Things.”

The VTC Group is actively looking for new partners and members and aims to continue its work in helping to grow the UK’s start-up ecosystem.