Innovative Research Call 2023 for Explosives and Weapons Detection

DASA’s Innovative Research Call seeks proposals for innovative solutions to improve detection of explosives and weapons capability.

Opportunity Details


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Total funding up to £3.06m: £1m in Phase 1 and £2.06m in Phase 2. Phase 1 projects: up to £70k each. Phase 2 project budgets tbc. (only successful phase 1 applicants can apply for phase 2).



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The Innovative Research Call (IRC), run by DASA, seeks proposals to develop innovative scientific and technical solutions for improved detection of explosives and weapons capability.

The competition seeks proposals for the screening of:

  • Buildings and Areas
  • Goods
  • People and / or their Possessions
  • Vehicles

This will be the sixth run of the IRC, with successful calls occurring in 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016 and 2020.

  • The IRC2023 for Explosives and Weapons Detection is funded and supported through a collaborative action of several government departments and law enforcement agencies, including:

    • National Protective Security Authority (NPSA)
    • Department for Transport (DfT)
    • Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl)
    • Home Office, Homeland Security Group (HSG)
    • Metropolitan Police Service
    • U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Science and Technology Directorate
    • Home Office, Border Force (BF)
    • Ministry of Justice (MoJ)
  • DASA submissions are welcome from the private sector, academia, individuals (i.e. sole traders) and Public Sector Research Establishments (PSREs). In most cases there are no nationality restrictions, however DASA individual competition documents will detail any necessary restrictions.

  • In Phase 1, you will demonstrate proof of concept of your proposed innovation. Projects can be funded up to £70,000 (capped limit for Phase 1 proposals) and may last up to 6 months. Applications for Phase 1 projects that require no funding, or minimal funding, to achieve proof of concept will be welcome.

    Phase 2 will only be open to applicants that have successfully completed a Phase 1 project. All successful suppliers participating in Phase 1 will be encouraged to apply for Phase 2. Bids for Phase 2 will be down-selected based upon their Phase 1 deliverables and proposals for Phase 2. In Phase 2, you will develop and evaluate prototypes or demonstrators of your innovation. Phase 2 projects could last up to a maximum of 20 months.

    Please note, this is the first phase of funding for a multi-phase competition. It is compulsory to apply for Phase 1 if you want to be considered in Phase 2.

    All funded projects must be completed by 31 May 2026, but may finish before that date.

  • The IRC seeks to develop and improve explosives and weapons detection capability across a range of use cases, 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 the transportation of explosives and weapons by threat actors between locations; and disrupting the use of explosive and weapons to cause harm.

    The overarching aim of IRC 2023 is to develop detection technologies and methods that provide innovative and reliable capability against a significant proportion of current and future explosives and weapons threats. Where possible, such solutions should have applicability to a range of operational contexts; as guidance, our expectation is that proposals in Phase 1 are expected to reach TRL 2-3 and for Phase 2, projects should reach TRL 5-6.Definitions of Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) can be found on the DASA website.

    The IRC 2023 will be seeking proposals that address the screening of:

    • Buildings and Areas
    • Goods
    • People and/or their Possessions
    • Vehicles

    Proposals must address at least one of the four challenges, though some solutions may be applicable to more than one challenge (which should be made clear in your proposal).

    Across all challenges, proposals are not expected to address all elements described. Solutions which apply to only one element of a specific challenge may still be of significant benefit when used to augment current detection capabilities.

    Please read the competition document for a full description of the scope, and requirements for each challenge.

  • 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 (and 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;
    • Human and behavioural factors which could be used to improve the overall security screening system;
    • Novel simulation and modelling analysis to improve our understanding of threat or response planning, automation or integration of existing processes;
    • Upstream detection – pre-physical screening & scanning can we consider earlier interventions – web crawling, AI, data.

    Please read the competition document for a full description of the requirements for each challenge area.

  • Potential bidders are able to submit clarification questions until the 27 July 2023. These questions should seek to clarify elements of this competition document and not be about potential proposals. Responses to these questions will be published on the Defence and Security Accelerator website by Wednesday 16 August 2023. Questions should be submitted to with the title ‘IRC2023 Clarification Question’.

    If you would like help to find a collaboration partner or have other queries, please contact Hazel Biggs, KTM Security and Defence.


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