SBRI competition: Detecting security threats and contraband in prisons


The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) will invest up to £950,000 in Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) innovation projects to address the challenges caused by the presence of drugs, drones and mobile phones in prison environments.

The aim of this competition is to develop novel detection techniques to identify these and other contraband items.

This competition will have 2 phases. In phase one you should explain your new concepts and how they will be proved. If you are successful you will be invited to apply for phase 2 and develop a working prototype.

Phase one projects can have total costs of up to £50,000 and must last between 4 and 6 months.

Funding type : Procurement

Project size : Your project’s total cost can be up to £50,000.


The problems of drugs, mobile phones, drones and other contraband within prisons have been widely covered by the media.  The aim of this competition is to develop novel detection techniques to identify and reduce the threat of these items within prison environments. Proposals for phase 1 funding should set out new concepts and how they will be proved.

At phase 1 projects should address at least one of the following:

1. The detection, identification and location of mobile phones and SIM cards, including phones with very low metal content.

2. The detection and location of illegal substances, particularly in very small quantities.

3. The detection, identification and location of other contraband, including tobacco, alcohol, weapons and explosives.

4. The detection and identification of drones (also known as remotely-piloted airborne systems).

5. The capture or safe destruction of drones.

Phase 1 projects need to prove that the techniques are scientifically sound and practical to employ. Your solutions must be:

  • robust enough to withstand the prison environment
  • able to be applied widely across the UK’s prison estates
  • commercially exploitable

Specific competition themes:

Your solution should be able to detect contraband in one or more of the following scenarios:

  • on persons
  • concealed inside the body
  • in bags
  • within buildings
  • at entry and exit points
  • in vehicles
  • in open areas

Key Dates:

18 September 2017 Competition opens

25 October 2017 12:00pm Registration closes

1 November 2017 12:00pm Competition closes

8 December 2017 Applicants notified

If you are interested in this competition?

Please email the Innovation SuperNetwork team at or complete the form below so we can help you and guide you through the application process.

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Our work is only possible with the support of our local and national partners, including Innovate UK, the Knowledge Transfer Network, the North East LEP, Northumbrian WaterNorth East BICReece Innovation and ENGIE with part funding from the European Regional Development Fund.
Huge thanks go to all our partners.