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UK Seeks Innovative Technology to Detect Explosives and Weapons

A remotely detonated explosion at Udari Range complex near Camp Buehring, Kuwait. Credit: Thomas Crough

The UK Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) is seeking innovative proposals to develop and improve explosives and weapons detection capability.

Explosive threats from terrorist groups continuously evolve. Attacks in recent years have used methodologies ranging from home-made explosives, firearms and bladed weapons – perpetrated by both organized groups and lone actors. As the threat continues to change, exploitation of the latest scientific and technical advances enhances operational capability to respond to the evolving landscape.

The Innovative Research Call (IRC) 2020 for Explosives and Weapons Detection seeks to develop and improve explosives and weapons detection capability across a range of use cases in order to enable earlier detection of terrorist and criminal activity. These span across the system: from preventing the illegal flow of precursor materials and firearms crossing the border; to detecting transport of explosives and weapons by threat actors between locations; and disrupting the use of explosives and weapons to cause harm.

Proposals may focus on developing new detection capabilities to add to end-users’ existing suite of equipment. Projects can either develop original ideas or adapt successful technologies, techniques or processes from other fields. This could include using existing detection capabilities in a wider range of different applications for a broader range of purposes.

Proposals may relate to improving the effectiveness and/or the efficiency of detection. However, we are not looking for minor advancements in current technology, and instead we seek proposals for revolutionary concepts.

Technologies could have a potential dual capability to detect other contraband or threats in addition to the core requirement of explosives and weapons, for example illicit drugs. Where this is the case, proposals should state the potential dual capability, but focus their proposed research and development activity on the core requirement.

Proposals should look to provide tangible technical or operational benefits over the current commercially available state-of-the-art. Examples of potential research areas could include, but are not limited to:

  • novel sensors or materials for threat detection, including adaptation of existing sensor types or techniques from other disciplines
  • novel deployment of sensors or detection systems, e.g. atmospheric monitoring or waste water monitoring for explosive trace detection
  • methods to screen multiple items or people at once
  • enhancing operator decision making, e.g. automated decision making, tools for use with potential multi-input processes
  • visualisation of chemicals to detect trace residues of explosives or illicit drugs on surfaces
  • measurement techniques which could allow identification of objects concealed inside other objects
  • production of reliable sources for in-field or laboratory assurance of equipment
  • studies to inform how screening processes could be enhanced e.g. through simulation and modelling analysis, automation or integration of existing processes
  • human and behavioural factors which could be used to improve the overall security screening system

The IRC competition is run on behalf of several government departments and law enforcement agencies, including:

A total of £2.8 million will be split across two phases, with up to £1 million available in Phase 1 and up to £1.8 million available in Phase 2.

All funded projects must be completed by September 2023, but may finish before that date.

Additional details are available at GOV.UK. This competition closes Monday 28 September 2020 at midday BST.

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