Detecting the production and use of hazardous chemical and biological (ChemBio) materials is an enduring challenge in the defence and security community. From sample collection and storage to rapid screening and identification of hazardous materials of interest – new safe and efficient approaches are required to meet various technology challenges during this process.
To help address challenges in the successful identification of ChemBio materials and to bring perpetrators to justice, DASA is pleased to launch a new Themed Competition called Catch the ChemBio SCENT. This competition is jointly funded by the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and the US Department of Defense (DOD) via the Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate (IWTSD).
How much funding is available?
Up to £1 million is available for Phase 1 of the competition, with a maximum of £100K for each funded proposal. The closing date for proposals is on 17 January 2021.
What does SCENT stand for? Screening, Collecting and Exploiting Novel Technologies
The production and use of ChemBio materials is a breach of the Chemical Weapons Convention and Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. When under investigation, samples may need to be recovered from environments with extreme climatic conditions and also dense urban areas.
It is vital that samples submitted to laboratories for investigation maintain physical integrity and stability during transportation to ensure high-quality analysis is undertaken, in a safe, controlled manner.
The challenges outlined in this competition seek to address either the screening, collection or forensic exploitation of samples suspected of containing hazardous ChemBio materials.
Key challenges the Catch the ChemBio SCENT! competition seeks to address
Challenge 1: Screening technologies for rapidly detecting or identifying the presence or class of hazardous ChemBio materials in a sample
Current screening technologies can identify known ChemBio Hazards. However, screening for a wider range of materials is restricted because of the limitations of handheld or field based screening technologies.
The goal of this challenge is to enable the rapid classification of “unknown” hazardous materials in either a field or a laboratory context.
Challenge 2: Sampling collection systems that maintain the integrity and viability of hazardous samples
Current collection technologies can sample materials from surfaces, but do not protect and stabilise the sampled materials for storage and transportation without cold chain support.
The goal of this challenge is to retrieve samples from an operational setting with a technology that preserves the properties of the sample.
Challenge 3: Analytical approaches to improve the forensic exploitation and the attribution of ChemBio materials
Current forensic exploitation technologies are in their infancy in ChemBio attribution and often require data intensive approaches taking weeks or months to undertake.
The goal of this challenge is to maximise the information and breadth of approaches that can be used in order to analyse a sample.