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1. Synthetic biology for novel materials
This Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) themed competition is looking for synthetic biology approaches to produce novel materials to address defence challenges.
Novel materials with enhanced performance in a variety of applications could really help defence and security, while also having many additional civilian, commercial uses.
We’re looking for proposals for short-term, highly innovative, proof-of-concept research. We’d like to see proposals that bring together multidisciplinary teams of scientists who use synthetic biology in the design and/or development of next-generation structural and functional materials.
This competition closed on Thursday 14 April 2016 at 5pm. Proposals must be submitted to CDE online.
Synthetic biology is a rapidly developing scientific discipline that combines tools for manipulating biological systems with the core principles of engineering. This allows the rational and systematic design and construction of new biological parts, devices and systems or the re-design of existing biological systems for purposes that may not occur in nature.
We want proposals that aim to address the technical challenges associated with developing enhanced structural and functional materials. We’re particularly interested in:
- novel adhesives
- enhanced resistance to corrosion
- protective applications, such as novel armour solutions
We want to see ambitious concepts to exploit the power of biological systems to make complex materials and the fundamental tools of molecular biology to manipulate such systems.
3. Technology challenges
Your proposal should be relevant to at least one of the 3 challenges described below, could address more than one, but doesn’t have to address them all.
We want proposals that aim to address the technical challenges associated with developing enhanced structural and functional materials.
All proposals must include a synthetic biology component, but projects don’t have to be exclusively met by synthetic biology. The proof-of-concept would be a novel material and production of enough to demonstrate its claimed properties (eg resistance to temperature, adaptive form) or functionality (eg self-indicating). A military application must be identified. We also encourage you to identify additional commercial applications.
3.1 Challenge 1: novel adhesives
Adhesives are an important family of materials for defence applications. We’re looking to the potential of synthetic biology to manipulate and produce novel adhesives, removing some of the drawbacks of existing adhesives (ie time to cure, special process, resistance to temperature, ageing, surface preparation, removal or disassembly, safety and environment, Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) regulations).
We’re interested in novel adhesives for all environments that have improved resistance to temperature or pressure changes.
To reduce weight in military vehicles, we aim to increase the use of adhesive bonding over welding and to reduce the use of steel. We’re interested in synthetic biology approaches to enable disbondable adhesives to improve the repair and maintenance of our vehicles.
Joining of dissimilar materials is important for the long-term exploitation of advanced materials. We’re interested in how synthetic biology could create robust joining technologies.
We’re also interested in self-indicating (ie ageing, loss of tack, damaged bond lines) or self-healing adhesives (ie filling cracks, replenishing tack.)
3.2 Challenge 2: enhanced resistance to corrosion
Corrosion costs the Ministry of Defence (MOD) billions in maintenance every year, and has a significant impact on equipment availability and performance. We want to reduce this cost burden. We’re interested in materials that have enhanced resistance to corrosion to protect service personnel, equipment and vehicles from the elements.
Military platforms must operate in a diverse range of demanding environments for extended periods. Also, opportunities for inspection and repair may be limited. Therefore, corrosion-prevention systems must be robust and adaptable. For example a submarine will spend up to 3 months on operations, during which time the vessel must be self-sufficient without coming into dock for maintenance and cleaning of the hull.
We’re looking for innovations anywhere from corrosion-monitoring systems to protection systems such as barriers and inhibitors. Areas of interest include corrosion-reporting materials (ie indicating when corrosion has started), detecting and mitigating biocorrosion (including microbially influenced corrosion and fouling), corrosion inhibitors, multifunctional coatings and materials with improved corrosion resistance.
We’re interested in proposals for solutions that could improve the durability of protective coatings, reduce the cost of application and maintenance, and address the issues of ease of application of the coating and environmental compliance (REACH).
3.3 Challenge 3: protective applications, such as novel armour solutions
We’re seeking initial concepts for a range of uses in protecting members of the armed forces. The protection could be against physical attack (ie projectiles or blast), chemical and biological agents and lasers.
We’re looking for novel materials with unique properties that may be useful in defence.
One application we’re particularly interested in is armour. We want lightweight but strong compounds that could be used to provide armour protection to equipment or personnel. A priority is very lightweight, flexible armour solutions for dismounted soldiers.
Examples of other materials of interest could include:
- novel camouflage solutions, including active or reactive colour-change materials, variable emissivity surfaces and very high-performance acoustic absorbers
- self-cleaning or decontaminating coatings
- materials for eye protection, covering physical and laser protection
- materials to protect physical sensors on equipment, eg against dazzle or jamming, without blocking performance of the sensor
We’re interested in novel approaches to decontamination of surfaces (may include complex and sensitive surfaces, such as electronics) and people. You must consider the environmental impact. Decontamination may be of biological (spores, vegetative cells, viruses) or chemical agents, but must be active against more than one chemical or single bacterial genus. We’re interested in materials that can capture chemical and/or biological agents and inactivate them to non-toxic products. They should impose little or no physiological or logistical burden.
For novel antimicrobials, we’re interested in synthetic biology approaches to develop novel compounds with broad-spectrum activity, which are systemic, not topical therapeutics. We’re not interested in synthetic biology routes to existing compounds.
Any novel material proposed must involve synthetic biology at some stage of its production, but chemical modification of biologically-derived precursors is acceptable.
4. What we want
In this CDE themed competition we want:
- highly innovative approaches, which are significantly different from existing technologies
- technologies that could bring additional operational military benefit or are more affordable
- approaches that will lead to a feasible defence or security application (they can also have additional commercial applications)
- multi and inter-disciplinary approaches
- proposals that consider and manage relevant ethical, social and legal issues that may prevent exploitation
5. What we don’t want
In this CDE themed competition we don’t want:
- existing solutions or technology that has already been tested and found to have limited use
- proposals for a paper study, review or similar
- solutions that require the release of genetically modified organisms into the environment
- proposals in areas where there’s already a significant research effort (eg regenerative medicine, food production, water purification and biofuels); if it’s a clearly defined new application specifically relevant to defence and security, and synthetic biology can be demonstrated, this could be acceptable
- proposals without a synthetic biology component in the approach
- biological sensors
Potential routes to exploitation of the successful outcomes from completed projects will be considered on a per-project basis. Each project will be assigned a Technical Partner in Dstl who’ll provide the interface between the project and the defence and security community. They will, where appropriate, develop potential routes to exploitation, including exploitation outside defence, if suitable.
Potential routes that could be available include additional research to develop or use the technology for MOD programmes.
Although we’re seeking high-risk approaches, you should consider that the resulting materials and solutions must have the potential to be affordably manufactured at an industrial scale.
Successful projects will be required to be represented at a stakeholder day, to be held at Dstl Porton Down, to present the outcomes from the project and review exploitation routes.
Up to £3 million is available for funding follow-on work in phase 2. Entry into phase 2 is only from being successful via a phase-1 project. Funding will be considered on a per-project basis.
A final deliverable for phase-1 proposals should be a follow-on proposal for potential phase-2 work.
7. Important information
This competition will be supported by presentations given at the Innovation Network event on Wednesday 10 February 2016.
This competition closes on Thursday 14 April 2016 at 5pm. Proposals must be submitted to CDE online.
We’re looking for proposals for short-term, highly innovative, proof-of-concept research. Up to £750,000 is available for phase 1 of this competition. We expect to fund a number of projects around £50,000 to £100,000 lasting up to 12 months.
The competition won’t accept proposals for more than £130,000 or projects that last more than 12 months at phase 1.
Proposals will be assessed by subject matter experts from Dstl and MOD.
|10 February 2016||Competition launch event, London|
|7 March 2016||Webinar|
|14 April 2016||Competition closes at 5pm|
|June 2016||Contract placement initiated and feedback provided|
|July 2017||Phase-1 proof-of-concept research complete|
9. Queries and help
While you’re preparing your proposals, you can contact us if you have any queries:
Technical queries should be sent to email@example.com
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, CDE 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.
General queries should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org