Competition Document – GOV.UK

1. Introduction

Developments in functional and biocompatible materials, combined with novel measurement methods, have led to the emergence of a new generation of wearable sensor technologies. These generation-after-next wearable technologies now allow us to move beyond the measurement of physical parameters such as heart rate and instead access information present in the molecules within an individual’s body fluids e.g. sweat, tears, saliva, tissue fluids (interstitial fluid) or blood.

This Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) competition aims to focus on research that will inform Dstl on the credible benefits that might be achieved by development of generation-after-next wearable technologies. Investments made will aspire to solve some of the critical technical challenges that limit the ability to undertake reliable, long-term measurements in vivo and thus enable exploitation of novel sensing approaches. This may include semi-implantable and fully implantable devices if appropriate for the particular assay envisaged. However, the level of invasiveness must be considered in terms of minimising potential risk and within the context of a robust evidence base as to why this offers capability advantage (e.g. access to the most relevant sample type for the biomarker required).

This will include development of technologies that are capable of accessing and monitoring biomarkers in body fluids over acute (hours) and long (days) timeframes. The competition will also focus on undertaking critical work in assay development to ensure that devices can be readily adapted to continuously monitor a variety of target analytes. Target analytes of interest to defence communities may include any reliable biomarker that provides robust indication of a state of interest, e.g. enzymatic or biochemical functionalities, metabolites and/or immune markers.

2. Competition key information

Submission deadline

Midday (BST) on 25 August 2022

Where do I submit my proposal?

Via the DASA Online Submission Service for which you will require an account. Only proposals submitted through the DASA Online Submission Service will be accepted.

Total funding available

£750k is available for this Phase 1 to fund multiple proposals, for a maximum of 12 months.

Technology Readiness Level TRL: 2-4

Additional funding for further phases to increase TRL may be available. Any further phases will be open to applications from all innovators and not just those that submitted Phase 1 successful bids.

Other DASA competitions

If you are interested in this technology area please also take a look at the Engineering Biology competition. Please note that you cannot submit the same proposal to both competitions. If you are interested in applying but unsure which competition your innovation would be best suited to, contact your regional innovation partner.

3. Supporting events

Dial-in session

06 July 2022 – A dial-in session providing further detail on the problem space and a chance to ask questions in an open forum. If you would like to participate, please register on the Eventbrite page.

4. Competition Scope

4.1 Background

Monitoring of biomarker profiles could influence our ability to intervene early and reduce risk of disease and non-battle injury

The analysis of the molecules present in clinical matrices is essential to understand the health status of individuals in clinical management. Application of modern tools in biomarker identification within human science studies are increasingly demonstrating that patterns of molecules produced by the body may be indicative of the immediate (minutes, hours) and long-term (years) impact of physical, environmental and occupational stressors on an individual as part of their career in Defence and Security.

Monitoring of biomarker profiles may, therefore, provide predictive or prognostic information, prompting early/pre-emptive intervention to minimise the risk of disease and non-battle injury, allow early triage and treatment or provide meaningful information on the effects of extreme physiological situations on defence personnel. Such physiological stressors could include heat, cold, altitude, vibration, infectious disease, chemical hazard, amongst other environmental and occupational stressors.

To date, analysis of molecular biomarkers in clinical matrices is almost exclusively restricted to laboratory-based analysis. In recent years, however, novel devices have emerged that are capable of continuous on-person measurement of important clinical biomarkers, most notably glucose. The development of these devices has fostered aspirations within the defence science community to understand how such devices might be adapted for monitoring other biomarkers of interest to the defence community and how this data might be used to influence effective decision making in maintaining the health and wellbeing of Defence and Security staff.

This Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) competition focuses on supporting research that will inform on the credible benefits that might be achieved by development of generation-after-next wearable technologies. Investments made will aspire to meet some of the critical technical challenges that limit the ability to undertake reliable, long-term measurements in vivo and thus widespread exploitation of wearable and implantable sensing devices to include the following challenge areas:

  1. Biocompatibility, tolerability of devices and maintenance of performance of sensor capabilities over periods of hours and potentially days. This will include a need to overcome signal degeneration due to non-specific fouling of sensors from complex biological matrices during use.
  2. The ability to measure a number of different types of analyte (small molecules to larger protein targets) in a continuous assay format. This challenge area will also examine adaptability and flexibility of assays to integration of new biomarker panels as they emerge from human science research studies.
  3. Assessment of the applicability of accessible bodily fluids to measurement of particular biomolecules, i.e. studies to demonstrate presence of key biomarkers, with relevance to associated pathology, in particular sample types and thus indicate exploitability of these devices in Defence and Security applications. These should be demonstrated against appropriate clinical methods.

4.2 Scope: “Beyond the smartwatch – towards continuous, molecular measurements with Wearable Technology”

Credible evidence that generation-after-next wearable technologies have the potential to protect the health and wellbeing of future defence staff

Dstl is seeking ambitious, innovative, low Technology Readiness Level (TRL) research that is focused towards critical technology bottlenecks that limit the broad applicability of generation-after-next wearable technologies to defence applications. Proposals directed towards this themed call should aim to provide proof-of-concept (TRL4) of what can be achieved now in this rapidly developing field of research and identify the most promising directions for future investments. Success will therefore be defined by delivery of credible evidence to support additional investments in particular approaches but also clear end points for particular strategies.

Overcoming critical technical challenges to enable exploitation of novel wearable technologies

In addition to the obvious tangible outputs of this themed call, in terms of data and sensor devices, this themed call will more broadly inform forward-leaning debates on how generation-after-next wearable technologies could be best exploited within Defence and Security capabilities. Future exploitation routes will be influenced by the breadth and longevity of robust measurement that can be made using these early phase platform technologies. As such, preference will be given to proposals focusing on;

  • Devices / assay systems and approaches that aim to be widely exploitable across a number of classes of biomarker (enzymes, metabolites or other small molecules)
  • Studies and sensor systems that will demonstrate flexibility to new biomarker panels as they emerge from human science research studies
  • Provide broad awareness of the utility of particular accessible biofluids in providing robust measures of biomarkers that have utility in supporting decision making

Novel technology developments to provide relevant measures that inform critical decision making

Exploitation of generation-after-next wearable sensors within Defence and Security capabilities will be informed by novel ideas and approaches to undertaking analysis in a continuous manner in accessible biofluids. However, achieving this aspiration will require approaches that go beyond baseline sensor performance and also focus on the relevance (biomarker availability in that fluid, timeliness of answer and correlation of that biomarker to understand particular states of interest in human health). For example, the measurement of biomarkers in sweat would be acceptable, but must demonstrate that this sample type is appropriate for the marker of interest and that the levels of biomarker are a demonstrable proxy for clinical analytical approaches for the same analyte (e.g. blood and urine analysis).

Model systems that are proposed to this themed call can be broad in potential application area within the confines of monitoring for changes in human health in response to physical and environmental stressors. However, proposals that look to demonstrate sensor performance alone, without considering how the output may provide timely robust information to inform decision making, will not be applicable to this call.

5. Competition Challenges

6. Challenge area 1

Biocompatibility, future tolerability of devices for human use and maintenance of performance of sensor capabilities over periods of hours and potentially days depending on the target biomarker and scenario of use. This will include a need to overcome signal degeneration due to non-specific fouling of sensors from complex biological matrices during use.

  • Development and / or demonstration of devices capable of reliably accessing molecular biomarkers in a range of body fluids that could include sweat, interstitial fluid, blood, saliva. This could include skin worn, minimally invasive (e.g. sensors that penetrate only the top layers of skin to access interstitial fluid) and potentially implantable sensors
  • Devices should aim to demonstrate the ability to monitor a chosen biomarker continuously over an extended time period (minimum 1 hour, preferred 6 hours plus), within the chosen bio-fluid. It is anticipated that this initial work will predominantly be work undertaken in vitro. This is acceptable if innovators are able to provide a vision for how this may be transitioned towards a wearable solution in further research. Any more mature propositions that aim to undertake ex vivo or in vivo work, must demonstrate that ethical and legal considerations have been made within the relevant study design
  • Approaches used should demonstrate a low degree of biofouling, whether through active or passive measures
  • Devices under development within this challenge should provide a vision for how proof-of-concept devices might develop towards a viable platform for use during activities that are likely to be encountered in Defence and Security scenarios, e.g. wearing of personal protective equipment (i.e. body armour), high levels of physical activity in challenging environments

7. Challenge area 2

Assay development aimed at demonstrating measurement of a number of different types of analyte (small molecules to larger protein targets) in a continuous assay format.

  • Demonstration of novel continuous measurement for molecular markers (e.g. enzymes, metabolites or small molecules) that require no intervention by a user once underway i.e. no wash steps or addition of reagents beyond those already built into the measurement system
  • Demonstrable sensitivity for the chosen target analyte within physiologically relevant ranges. The utility of the measure should be verified against known clinical methods.
  • Robust data analysis to show trends in biomarker presence over time in a chosen clinical matrix
  • While assays can initially be undertaken within buffer solutions, each proposal must provide data to support that the same assay can perform reliably in body fluid matrices, providing suitable signal-to-noise ratio over a protracted time period (1 hour minimum, 6 hours plus preferred)
  • Assays may be undertaken as a proof-of-concept demonstrator (i.e. not yet built into a wearable format), but there must be a vision as to how this assay format could realistically transition to a wearable format as part of the proposal

8. Challenge area 3

Assessment of the applicability of accessible bodily fluids to measurement of particular biomolecules, i.e. studies to demonstrate presence of key biomarkers, with relevance to associated pathology, in particular sample types and thus indicate exploitability of these devices in Defence and Security applications. These should be demonstrated against appropriate clinical standard methods.

  • This challenge will encompass studies that demonstrate that a particular accessible fluid (e.g. sweat, saliva, tear fluid, interstitial fluid) is a relevant matrix for a particular biomarker associated with a chosen stressor of interest
  • This may include comparative assays of the chosen bio-fluid versus clinical analytical approaches for the same analyte (e.g. blood and urine analysis). Preference will be given to studies that target known biomarkers for stressors of high priority to Defence and Security e.g. heat, altitude, infectious disease, chemical hazard, stress, fatigue
  • Studies of this type should demonstrate comparability of assay in the different matrices, identify any lag effects observed in more accessible bio-fluids that may limit the immediacy of decision making

8.1 We are interested in…

We want novel ideas to benefit end-users working in UK Defence and Security. Your proposal should include evidence of:

  • Solutions focused on critical technical challenges that limit the application of generation-after-next wearable technologies to Defence and Security applications

  • Solutions that will provide credible outputs that can inform decision making, i.e. offer a balance of sensor performance with relevance and timeliness of the measure provided

  • A clear vision for how proof-of-concept demonstrations of low TRL technologies might transition towards exploitable platform technologies for monitoring of defence staff in the context of challenging environmental or physically demanding environments
  • Theoretical development, method of advancement or proof-of-concept research which can demonstrate potential for translation to practical demonstration in later phases.* Innovation or a creative approach with an ambition to deliver workable demonstration of new concepts.* Clear demonstration of how the proposed work applies to any Defence and Security context.

8.2 We are not interested in…

We are not seeking proposals that:

9. Accelerating and commercially exploiting your innovation

It is important that over the lifetime of DASA competitions, ideas are matured and accelerated towards appropriate end-users to enhance capability. How long this takes will depend on the nature and starting point of the innovation.

9.1 A clear route for commercial exploitation

For DASA to consider routes for commercial exploitation, ensure your deliverables are designed with the aim of making it as easy as possible for collaborators / stakeholders to identify the innovative elements of your proposal. Identification and engagement with end users during the competition is beneficial to implementation of an exploitation plan.
During the competition phase there should be no correspondence between innovators and DASA other than via the Accelerator email or Commercial team. Projects that are funded will receive support in accessing relevant customers to aid with routes to exploitation.

9.2 How to outline your exploitation plan

A higher technology maturity is expected in subsequent phases. Include the following information to help the assessors understand your exploitation plans:

  • the intended Defence or Security users of your final product and whether you have previously engaged with them, their procurement arm or their research and development arm
  • awareness of, and alignment to, any existing end user procurement programmes
  • the anticipated benefits (for example, in cost, time, improved capability) that your solution will provide to the user
  • whether it is likely to be a standalone product or integrated with other technologies or devices
  • expected additional work required beyond the end of the contract to develop an operationally deployable commercial product (for example, “scaling up” for manufacture, cyber security, integration with existing technologies, environmental operating conditions)
  • additional future applications and wider markets for exploitation
  • wider collaborations and networks you have already developed or any additional relationships you see as a requirement to support exploitation
  • how your product could be tested in a representative environment in later phases
  • any specific legal, ethical, commercial or regulatory considerations for exploitation

9.3 Is your exploitation plan long-term?

Long-term studies may not be able to articulate exploitation in great detail, but it should be clear that there is credible advantage to be gained from the technology development. Focus your plan on the advantages to gained from the technology development. That will help to shape and articulate exploitation in the longer term.

Include project specific information which will help exploitation. This competition is being carried out as part of a wider MOD programme and with cognisance of cross-Government initiatives. We may collaborate with organisations outside of the UK Government and this may provide the opportunity to carry out international trials and demonstrations in the future.

10. How to apply

10.1 Submission deadline

Midday (BST) on 25 August 2022
Where do I submit my proposal?
Via the DASA Online Submission Service for which you will be required to register.
Only proposals submitted through the DASA Online Submission Service will be accepted.

Total funding available

The total funding available for Phase 1 of this competition is £750k (ex VAT).

How many proposals will DASA fund

It is envisaged that 4 or 5 proposals will be funded. Additional funding for further phases to increase TRL may be available. Any further phases will be open to applications from all innovators and not just those that submitted Phase 1 bids.

For further guidance

Click here for more information on our competition process and how your proposal is assessed.
Queries should be sent to the DASA Help Centre – [email protected]

10.2 What your proposal must include

  • the proposal should focus on the Phase 1 requirements but must also include a brief (uncosted) outline of the next stages of work required for commercial exploitation
  • when submitting a proposal, you must complete all sections of the online form, including an appropriate level of technical information to allow assessment of the bid and a completed finances section
  • completed proposals must comply with the financial rules set for this competition. The upper-limit for this competition is £750K (ex VAT) and we expect to fund 4-5 proposals within this phase 1 call.
  • you must include a list of other current or recent funding you may have received in this area if appropriate, making it clear how this proposal differs from this work
  • a project plan with clear milestones and deliverables must be provided. Deliverables must be well defined and designed to provide evidence of progress against the project plan and the end-point for this phase; they must include a final report
  • you should also plan for attendance at a kick-off meeting at the start of Phase 1, a mid-project event and an end of project event at the end of Phase 1, as well as regular reviews with the appointed Technical Partner and Project Manager; all meetings will be in the UK. Meetings may also take place virtually.
  • your proposal must demonstrate how you will complete all activities/services and provide all deliverables within the competition timescales (12 months). Proposals with any deliverables (including final report) outside the competition timeline will be rejected as non-compliant
  • you must have completed the cyber risk assessment

10.3 What your resourcing plan should include

Your resourcing plan must identify, where possible, the nationalities of proposed employees that you intend to work on this phase.

In the event of a proposal being recommended for funding, the DASA reserves the right to undertake due diligence checks including the clearance of proposed employees. Please note that this process will take as long as necessary and could take up to 6 weeks in some cases for non-UK nationals.

You must identify any ethical / legal / regulatory factors within your proposal and how the associated risks will be managed, including break points in the project if approvals are not received.

MODREC approvals can take up to 5 months therefore you should plan your work programme accordingly. If you are unsure if your proposal will need to apply for MODREC approval, then please refer to the MODREC Guidance for Innovators or contact your Innovation Partner for further guidance.

All proposals submitted that contain animal work will be reviewed by a Dstl veterinary surgeon and will be considered non-compliant without inclusion of appropriate information. For UK locations that are proposing use of animals under ASPA (Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act 1986) as part of work under DASA, the location must demonstrate that they hold a Project Licence that covers the work proposed, and Establishment Licence for the location and Personal Licences for anyone carrying out the regulated procedures. International innovators proposing animal work under AAALAC should provide the equivalent documentation. For locations outside of the UK that do not have AAALAC, proposal assessment will need to include a Dstl veterinary surgeon making custom assessment of the location’s applicable national regulations, any other accreditations held by the location and the local governance systems for the location.

Requirements for access to Government Furnished Assets (GFA), for example, information, equipment, materials and facilities, may be included in your proposal. DASA cannot guarantee that GFA will be available. If you apply for GFA, you must include an alternative plan in case it is not available.

Failure to provide any of the above listed will automatically render your proposal non-compliant.

10.4 Export control for overseas partners

Contracts awarded as a result of this competition may fall under an extant memorandum of understanding between the UK MOD and US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

This will facilitate the unimpeded exchange of proposals, prototypes and associated information between the UK and US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand governments. However, this effective exemption from export controls only applies to the UK and, not to third countries, and all innovators must therefore abide by the export control requirements of their originator country.

All relevant export control regulations will apply if a company ultimately wants to sell a developed solution to a foreign entity. All innovators must ensure that they can obtain, if required, the necessary export licences for their proposals and developments, such that they can be supplied to the UK and other countries. If you cannot confirm that you can gain the requisite licences, your proposal will be sifted out of the competition.

Additionally, if we believe that you will not be able to obtain export clearance, additional checks may be conducted, which may also result in your proposal being sifted out of the competition.

10.5 Cyber risk assessment

Supplier Assurance Questionnaire (SAQ)

Innovators must complete a Supplier Assurance Questionnaire (SAQ), using the DASA Risk Assessment Reference (RAR) for this competition: RAR-437425863 and answer questions for risk level “Very Low”.

DASA has completed a Cyber Risk Assessment (CRA) for this competition. In order to submit to this competition innovators are required to work towards cyber resilience. If selected for funding, the innovator must prove cyber resilience before a contract is awarded.

Defence Cyber Protection Partnership

The Defence Cyber Protection Partnership (DCPP) will review your SAQ submission and respond with a reference number within 2 working days. The completed SAQ form and resulting email response from DCPP must be downloaded and included when the proposal is submitted. Please allow enough time to receive the SAQ reference number prior to competition close at midday (BST) on 25 August 2022.

If the proposal is being funded, the SAQ will be evaluated against the CRA for the competition, and it will be put it into one of the following categories:

  1. compliant – no further action
  2. not compliant – if successful in competition and being funded, the innovator will be required to complete a Cyber Implementation Plan (CIP) before the contract is placed, which will need to be reviewed and agreed with the relevant project manager

Innovators can enter a proposal without all controls in place, but are expected to have all the cyber protection measures necessary to fulfil the requirements of the contract in place at the time of contract award, or have an agreed Cyber Implementation Plan (CIP).

The CIP provides evidence as to how and when potential innovators will achieve compliance. Provided the measures proposed in the Cyber Implementation Plan do not pose an unacceptable risk to the MOD, a submission with a Cyber Implementation Plan will be considered alongside those who can achieve the controls.

A final check will be made to ensure cyber resilience before the contract is placed. Commercial staff cannot progress without it. This process does not replace any contract specific security requirements.

Further guidance for completing this process can be requested by emailing the DASA Help Centre: [email protected]

Additional information about cyber security can be found at: DCPP: Cyber Security Model industry buyer and innovator guide.

10.6 Public facing information

When submitting your proposal, you will be required to include a title and a short abstract. The title and abstract you provide will be used by DASA, and other government departments, to describe your project and its intended outcomes and benefits. They may be included at DASA events in relation to this competition and in documentation such as brochures. The proposal title will be published in the DASA transparency data on GOV.UK, along with your organisation name, the amount of funding, and the start and end dates of your contract. As this information can be shared, it should not contain information that may compromise Intellectual property.

10.7 How your proposal will be assessed

At Stage 1, all proposals will be checked for compliance with the competition document and may be rejected before full assessment if they do not comply. Only those proposals that demonstrate compliance against the competition scope and DASA mandatory criteria will be taken forward to full assessment.

The proposal outlines how it meets the scope of the competition. Within scope (Pass) / Out of scope (Fail)
The proposal fully explains in all three sections of the DASA submission service how it meets the DASA criteria. Pass / Fail
The proposal clearly details a financial plan, a project plan and a resourcing plan to complete the work proposed in Phase 1. Pass / Fail
The proposal contains a credible test plan where appropriate. Pass / Fail
The proposal identifies the need (or not) for MODREC approval and RIPA. Pass / Fail
The proposal provides appropriate information to confirm that appropriate legal and ethical requirements are in place for any proposed in vivo work involving animals
The proposal clearly identifies the requirement, or not, of GFA Phase 1, along with suitable mitigations should this not be available. Pass / Fail
Maximum value of proposal is £750K (ex VAT). Pass / Fail
The proposal demonstrates how all research and development activities/services (including delivery of the final report) will be completed within 12 months from award of contract (or less). Pass / Fail
The innovator provides unqualified acceptance of the terms and conditions of the contract. Pass / Fail
The innovator has done all of the following: submitted a Supplier Assurance Questionnaire (SAQ) number; attached the email from DCPP; attached the submitted SAQ form Pass / Fail

Proposals that pass Stage 1 will then be assessed against the standard DASA assessment criteria (Desirability, Feasibility and Viability) by subject matter experts from the MOD (including Dstl), other government departments and the front-line military commands. You will not have the opportunity to view or comment on assessors’ recommendations.

DASA reserves the right to disclose on a confidential basis any information it receives from innovators during the procurement process (including information identified by the innovator as Commercially Sensitive Information in accordance with the provisions of this competition) to any third party engaged by DASA for the specific purpose of evaluating or assisting DASA in the evaluation of the innovator’s proposal. In providing such information the innovator consents to such disclosure. Appropriate confidentiality agreements will be put in place.

After assessment, proposals will be discussed internally at a Decision Conference where, based on the assessments, budget and wider strategic considerations, a decision will be made on the proposals that are recommended for funding.

Innovators are not permitted to attend the Decision Conference.

Proposals that are unsuccessful will receive brief feedback after the Decision Conference.

10.8 Things you should know about DASA contracts: DASA terms and conditions

Please read the DASA standard terms and conditions which contain important information for innovators. For this competition we will be using the Innovation Standard Contract (ISC) Terms and Schedules. We will require unqualified acceptance of the terms and conditions; if applicable, please ensure your commercial department has provided their acceptance.

Funded projects will be allocated a Project Manager (to run the project) and a Technical Partner (as a technical point of contact). In addition, the DASA team will work with you to support delivery and exploitation including, when appropriate, introductions to end-users and business support to help develop their business.

We will use deliverables from DASA contracts in accordance with our rights detailed in the contract terms and conditions.

For this competition, £750k is currently available to fund proposals. There may be occasions when additional funding may become available to allow us to revisit proposals deemed suitable for funding. Therefore, DASA reserves the right to keep such proposals in reserve. In the event that additional funding becomes available, DASA may ask whether you would still be prepared to undertake the work outlined in your proposal under the same terms.

11. Phase 1 key dates

| Open Q and A Dial-in |06 July 2022

Competition closes Midday (BST) 25 August 2022
Feedback release Aim: early November 2022
Contracting Aim to start November 2022 and end 12 months later in 2023

12. Supporting events

12.1 Collaboration Survey

We encourage collaboration between organisations for this competition. To support this we have a short survey to collect details of those who wish to explore collaboration possibilities. If you are interested in a collaboration, please complete the survey and your details will be circulated among other potential suppliers who have completed the survey and are interested in collaborating.

If you choose to complete the Supplier collaboration survey, please be aware that all of the information you submit in the survey will be provided to other Suppliers who also complete the survey.

12.2 Dial-in session

06 July 2022 – A dial-in session providing further detail on the problem space and a chance to ask questions in an open forum. If you would like to participate, please register on the Eventbrite page.

1 to 1 telecom appointments will be available later in July. Registration for these will open after the dial-in session has taken place.

Competition queries including on process, application, commercial, technical and intellectual property aspects should be sent to the DASA Help Centre at [email protected], quoting the competition title. If you wish receive future updates on this competition, please email the DASA Help Centre.

While all reasonable efforts will be made to answer queries, DASA reserves the right to impose management controls if volumes of queries restrict fair access of information to all potential innovators.

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