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Synthetic biology for transparent materials
This Defence and Security Accelerator themed competition is looking for highly innovative, high risk proposals using synthetic biology approaches to produce transparent materials for defence and security.
This competition was briefed at the CDE Innovation Network event on 1 December 2016 and at a webinar on 5 December 2016.
Your proposal must be received by the Accelerator by 5pm on Thursday 2 February 2017. Your proposal must be submitted to the Accelerator online.
There is a need in the military for applications such as transparent armour that are made from high-strength, robust materials which have the capability to transmit light around the visible (0.4–0.7 µm) and mid-infrared (1–5 µm) regions of the spectrum. Transparent armour is a material, or system of materials, designed to be transparent, but which still provides protection from fragmentation or ballistic impacts. The main requirement for a transparent armour system is not only to survive impact and provide effective protection but to also protect against multi-hit capability with minimal optical distortion around damaged areas. Transparent armour windows must also be compatible with night vision equipment. Additionally any adhesive or interlayers used in these armour systems must provide strong bonding, optical clarity, adhesion to many surfaces, toughness and flexibility. They also need to be compatible with all elements/materials of the transparent armour system. Countering glint and glare are specific areas of interest for defence.
2. Technology challenges
This Accelerator themed competition is looking for highly innovative, ambitious research proposals using synthetic biology approaches to produce transparent materials with properties that will be useful to defence and security.
We’re looking for new materials that are thinner, lighter weight and offer better ballistic performance. This will involve cutting edge, multidisciplinary research through the application of existing synthetic biology tools and techniques using novel research approaches and innovative thinking. The following technical areas are highlighted as challenges for this competition.
2.1 Challenge 1: novel transparent materials
In this challenge we’re looking for proposals that use synthetic biology approaches to produce and characterise transparent materials useful to defence. These materials should perform as well as, or better than, existing products. This can include composites and functional materials. Ideally these novel materials will be capable of transmitting light around the visible (0.4–0.7 µm) and mid-infrared (1–5 µm) regions of the spectrum.
We’re also interested in proposals for approaches that:
- consider controlled transmission/reflection bands, similar to photonic crystal structures, dielectric stack mirrors and Fabry-Perot filters
- include synthetic biology approaches to materials, such as graded refractive index lenses and control of glint or glare using anti-reflection surface treatments
- develop coatings compatible with transparent materials to provide greater functionality
- use synthetic biology to provide laser dazzle protection. For example, a fast acting (within 1/1000sec), optically clear (>95% light transmission), biologically inspired layer, capable of preventing laser dazzle in the 430 - 450nm and 520 – 540nm wavelength. This layer could be incorporated into both goggles and windscreens for military and aviation vehicles
- provide multidisciplinary applications that use synthetic biology to develop novel materials or new methods to make existing materials that are difficult to produce to overcome supply limitations
We’re seeking proof-of-concept research proposals for technologies that have a range of uses. Your proposals must include a clear statement of the potential relevance to defence and security capabilities and describe an exploitation path.
You must indicate how you will deliver significant improvements over current capabilities and need to describe how you think your technology could:
- enable enhanced performance and new functionality
- support platform availability and life extension
- future-proof military capability against evolving needs and threats
At the end of the phase 1 project your proof-of-concept would need to produce enough material to demonstrate the desired functionality. Your approach must include a synthetic biology component, but does not have to be exclusively delivered by synthetic biology.
2.2 Challenge 2: adhesives and interlayer materials compatible with transparent materials
Transparent armour made of laminated glass is commonplace. Modern composite transparent armour systems regularly use polymeric materials such as polycarbonates (PC), acrylics, polyester film and PVB (Polyvinyl Butyral) or TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane) adhesive. Plastic laminates of acrylic and/or PC layers, of varying thickness, bonded with compatible interlayer materials (adhesive films) are now available along with composite laminates of glass, PC and/or acrylic layers bonded with compatible interlayer materials.
Adhesives and interlayer materials are key to joining any laminated or layered transparent armour system (current or future). Most of the problems with current systems are associated with degradation of transparency and can be caused in a number of ways, including water ingress and delamination.
In composite armours the interlayer is also used to manage thermal expansion. This interlayer needs to accommodate thermal expansion mismatch between polymers and glass and it also needs to stop cracks propagating between the layers. Interlayers and ply adhesive provide a flexible medium to improve shatter and impact characteristics of transparencies. When PC is used in the construction of transparencies, TPU is used as the interlayer because PVB is deemed to be incompatible with PC. Any novel adhesive and interlayer material needs to be compatible with all elements/materials of the transparent armour system.
We’re looking for proposals for novel adhesives and interlayer materials which prevent water ingress and/or absorb moisture without causing delamination and degradation of transparency.
3. What we want
There’s an increasing need in the military sector for high-strength, robust transparent materials. Through this Accelerator competition we’re seeking proposals that use synthetic biology approaches for:
- materials with the capability to transmit light around the visible (0.4–0.7 µm) and mid-infrared (1–5 µm) regions of the spectrum
- materials for applications requiring transparent armour
- transparent armour systems that not only defeat the designated threat but also provide a multi-hit capability with minimised optical distortion around damaged areas
- transparent armour windows that are compatible with night vision equipment
- new materials that are thinner, more lightweight, and offer better ballistic performance than what’s currently available
- novel adhesives and interlayer materials that prevent water ingress and/or absorb moisture
4. What we don’t want
For this competition we’re not interested in proposals for:
- demonstrations of off-the-shelf products
- paper-based studies or literature reviews
- solutions that don’t offer significant benefit to defence
- incremental improvements
- PhD proposals
- projects that can’t demonstrate feasibility within the phase 1 timescale
- existing solutions or technology which have already been tested and found to have limited utility
- exclusively theoretical and simulated approaches with no practical validation
- solutions that require the release of genetically modified organisms into the environment
- work that doesn’t have a synthetic biology component in the approach
All projects funded at phase 1 will be expected to take part in a collaboration day and a presentation day together with the other funded organisations. These will be an opportunity to meet other participants and discuss potential collaboration. The events will take place in May 2017 and January 2018 at or near a Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) site and participation must be costed into the proposal.
Outputs of funded work may be exposed to international government partners in the US (full rights version only). This is to promote international collaboration and to give projects the best chance of exploitation through exposure to a larger scope of defence requirements.
We aim to take forward a number of the most successful outputs from phase 1 projects for phase 2 funding. Only bidders funded at phase 1 qualify for entry into phase 2 of this competition where up to an additional £1 million of funding will be made available. Phase 2 funding will be awarded on a per-project basis. Phase 2 projects can last up to 12 months.
As a deliverable of the phase 1 project, successful bidders will also be expected to produce a fully costed proposal for a phase 2 project.
6. Important information
This competition was supported by presentations given at the CDE Innovation Network event on 1 December 2016.
Your proposal must be received by the Accelerator by 5pm on Thursday 2 February 2017. Proposals must be submitted to the Accelerator online.
We won’t accept proposals over £100,000 and it’s more likely at this stage that a larger number of lower-value proposals (for example £40,000 to £80,000) will be funded than a small number of higher-value proposals. Total funding available for phase 1 of this competition is £750,000.
Proposals should focus on a short, sharp, proof-of-concept phase with research lasting up to 9 months in duration, with projects completed by 31 January 2018.
Proposals should include a descriptive scoping for a longer programme (phase 2 onwards) of any duration, but the proposal should be clearly partitioned with a costed proof-of-concept stage, which is the focus of this Accelerator themed competition.
Phase 2 work will only be considered after the phase 1 proof-of concept has delivered. The understanding gained in phase 1 will allow Dstl to make an informed decision about funding for future work. Read important information about how to submit a proposal to the Accelerator.
Proposals will be assessed by subject matter experts from MOD and Dstl. Read about how your proposal is assessed.
Dstl will be available to provide advice and/or guidance via an appointed technical partner throughout the project and provide the interface with MOD and wider government stakeholder community.
Deliverables from contracts will be made available to technical partners and subject to review by UK MOD.
6.1 Ethical considerations
All research involving human participation conducted or sponsored by MOD is subject to ethical review under MOD procedures as outlined in Joint Service Publication 536 ‘Ministry of Defence Policy for Research Involving Human Participants’, irrespective of any separate ethical procedures (eg from universities or other organisations). This ensures that acceptable ethical standards are met, upheld and recorded, adhering to nationally and internationally accepted principles and guidance.
The following definitions explain the areas of research that require approval:
- clinical: conducting research on a human participant, including (but not limited to) administering substances, taking blood or urine samples, removing biological tissue, radiological investigations, or obtaining responses to an imposed stress or experimental situation
- non-clinical: conducting research to collect data on an identifiable individual’s behaviour, either directly or indirectly (such as by questionnaire or observation)
All proposals should declare if there are potential ethical issues.
Securing ethical approval through the MOD process can take up to 3 months. In this Accelerator themed competition, projects must be completed by 31 January 2018 and obtaining ethical approval could take your proposal beyond the timeline for completion of phase 1. We, therefore, recommend that you only include research in phase 1 that doesn’t require ethical approval. Work that might require ethical approval should be planned for future phases of work which are likely to have longer and more flexible timescales.
However, if you think that your phase-1 proposal may require ethical approval, please ensure that you take an approach in your submission as follows (noting that projects must still complete by 31 January 2018):
- milestone 1: gaining ethics approval for the project, including delivery of the research protocols (the protocol will need to be detailed by completing the ethics application form)
- milestone 2: proposed research that will be carried out subject to gaining ethics approval (optional phases to be formally invoked, where appropriate)
A contractual break point should be included after milestone 1.
The requirement for ethical approval isn’t a barrier to funding; proposals are assessed on technical merit and potential for exploitation. Successful proposals will be supported through the ethical review process; however, an outline of your research methods must be included in your proposal to help this process.
|1 December 2016||Competition briefing at Innovation Network event|
|5 December 2017||Webinar|
|2 February 2017||Competition closes at 5pm|
|May 2017||Collaboration/networking event for phase 1 projects|
|31 January 2018||Latest date for the delivery of phase-1 proof-of-concept research|
|January 2018||Phase-1 demonstration/presentation event|
|End February 2018||Phase-2 funding competition closes|
|April 2018||Phase-2 funding decisions made|
|May 2018||Phase-2 initiated|
8. Queries and help
While you’re preparing your proposals, you can contact us if you have any queries:
Technical queries about this competition should be sent to: email@example.com
General queries should be sent directly to the Accelerator at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Capacity to answer these queries is limited in terms of volume and scope. Queries should be limited to a few simple questions or if provided with a short (few paragraphs) description of your proposal, the technical team will provide, without commitment or prejudice, broad yes/no answers. This query facility is not to be used for extensive technical discussions, detailed review of proposals or supporting the iterative development of ideas. While all reasonable efforts will be made to answer queries, the Accelerator and Dstl reserves the right to impose management controls when higher than average volumes of queries or resource demands restrict fair access to all potential proposal submitters.