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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/J013552/1
Title: Novel drug sensor platform - bringing new technology closer to market
Principal Investigator: Sun, Professor T
Other Investigators:
Grattan, Professor KT
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Home Office Smiths-Detection
Department: Sch of Engineering and Mathematical Sci
Organisation: City, University of London
Scheme: Follow on Fund
Starts: 26 September 2012 Ends: 28 February 2014 Value (£): 140,298
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Instrumentation Eng. & Dev. Robotics & Autonomy
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Electronics Transport Systems and Vehicles
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
18 Oct 2011 Follow-on Fund Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
In the year 2010 - 2011 the UK Border Agency (UKBA) made over 1,200 individual seizures of Class-A drugs totalling 3,000kg. In August of this year alone a record-setting 1.2 tons of cocaine was seized in one drug bust aboard a pleasure boat - an unusually high amount for one bust but a level of success the UKBA wants to maintain.

There is a range of drug detection equipment on the market today, but each has its strengths and limitations, including sniffer dogs, which are often considered one of the most efficient and highly sensitive means for drug detection. The limitations of existing technologies include high levels of false alarms, low levels of sensitivity compared to sniffer dogs and high cost using disposable consumables. Specifically with regards to dogs, high upkeep cost and a dog's nature of getting tired or confused, and inability to act as evidence in a court of law, are all big issues.

The team at City is proposing to develop a prototype real-time multi-drug sensing detection system to address the above challenge and this builds upon the success of the initial EPSRC project, where a novel, highly sensitive and selective optical fibre-based portable cocaine sensor, using the molecularly imprinting polymer (MIP) technique coupled with fluorescence signalling, has been successfully developed and evaluated. The Home Office CAST members were instrumental in identifying the need as an end-user for this new sensor technology exploitation and its associated new drug sensor development. They, together with advisors from Smiths Detection, are shaping the main deliverables of this proposal to ensure that it results in a commercially robust product.

Initially the device will be developed to detect drugs concealed in hard-to-reach areas in vehicles or containers crossing borders, where currently sniffer dogs are frequently used to locate the illegal substance. However, the underlying technology is capable of meeting a much wider range of applications.

This follow-on funding is vital for the team to develop the technology to a stage that it can be licensed to an existing manufacturer, currently supplying drug detection devices to the Border Security Agencies around the world.

City's technology transfer team will be an integral part of this project, carrying out simultaneous market validation exercises and feeding back to the academic team on a continual basis. This intelligence will advise the product development process. The team will also work with the in-house Incubator to establish whether an additional or alternative route to market could involve creating a spin-out company capable of attracting seed investment.

Key Findings
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Potential use in non-academic contexts
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Date Materialised
Sectors submitted by the Researcher
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Project URL:  
Further Information:  
Organisation Website: http://www.city.ac.uk