in Defence / Events

DASA launches trace explosives detection competition

Posted 31 January 2024

The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) has today launched a new Themed Competition called ‘Small, Lightweight, Trace Explosives Detector’.

Image courtesy DASA

This competition is jointly funded by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the US Department of Defense (DoD) and seeks proposals for the development of novel, lightweight, bioassay systems for the detection of trace explosives to benefit end-users working in UK and US defence and security.

Trace detection systems allow end-users to detect and identify non-visible (trace) levels of materials from surfaces and/or items relating to defence and security (e.g. resulting from a suspected improvised explosive device). Current trace detection equipment, such as systems used in airports, have a significant size, weight and power (SWaP) footprint. In addition, pocket-sized systems such as chemical test kits that are used for presumptive identification have much lower SWaP but do not perform as well as the larger systems.

Detection systems that use biological assays have low SWaP and can be used in some applications for sensing molecular explosives, however to date they have not been optimised for trace detection of explosives. Biological Assay in this context refers to the use of biologically derived or biologically inspired reagents or methods that can be used to identify and/or detect a chemical. In this case the assay would be used to achieve detection of trace / sub-visible quantities of molecular explosive targets collected from a surface.

The primary aim of this competition is to develop innovative platforms for the trace detection of explosives using biologically derived detection strategies. DASA are looking for innovative solutions that will incorporate modern sampling and reader formats into a platform that is capable of the trace detection of initially three explosive materials with the potential for future iterations of the platform to detect up to 10 explosives and / or other small molecule threats.

Key dates and funding
The total possible funding available for this themed competition is £600,000 and DASA expect to fund two proposals of up to £300,000 each or one outstanding proposal up to £600,000.
The deadline to submit a proposal is midday (BST) on Tuesday 9th April 2024.
A Q&A webinar to discuss the competition requirements will take place on Thursday 8th February 2024.

A series of 15 minute 1-2-1 webinar sessions will take place on Thursday 15th February and Tuesday 20th February 2024 and provide the opportunity to ask specific questions

Webinars and online events

Launch Q&A Webinar: 8th February 2024, 3pm (GMT): This webinar will provide more information on the challenge areas and how to submit a proposal. There will also be an opportunity to ask questions in the Q&A.
Register on the Eventbrite Page

1-2-1 Sessions: 15th February 2024 & 20th February 2024: A series of 20 minute one-to-one teleconference sessions, giving you the opportunity to ask specific questions.
Register for a session now on the Eventbrite Pages

Submitting a proposal
Read the full competition document here to learn more and submit a proposal.




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