Funding competition Detection and identification of illicit postal goods at UK borders: SBRI competition

Organisations can apply for a share of £250,000, including VAT, to develop innovative detection technologies for deployment in the UK postal border environment.

This competition is now closed.

Register and apply online

Competition sections


This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition with funding provided by the GovTech Catalyst.

The Home Office and Border Force continually promotes, invests in and deploys innovative detection technologies at the UK border. These counter the evolving threats of the modern world and protect revenue on imported goods. This is a strategic priority of the UK government.

This is phase 1 of the competition. Organisations can to apply for a share of £250,000, including VAT, to run a feasibility study to develop innovative solutions for deployment in the international postal and fast parcel border environment.

The overall programme will be delivered in 2 phases. A decision to proceed with phase 2 will depend on the outcomes from phase 1. Only successful applicants from phase 1 will be able to apply to take part in phase 2.

Your application must propose adaptive and non-disruptive products that comply with our 2 main objectives:

  • improve our ability to detect illicit goods passing through postal and fast parcel border facilities
  • have no effect on the flow of goods

We strongly recommend you attend our challenge launch event at The Trampery, London on 3 December 2018.

Funding type


Project size

In phase 1 we expect to fund up to 5 projects for up to 3 months from 12 April 2019. R&D projects can have total eligible costs of up to £50,000 each, including VAT.

Who can apply

To lead a project you can:

  • be an organisation of any size
  • work alone or with others from business, the research base or the third sector as subcontractors


Phase 1

There is up to £250,000 of funding available for phase 1. We expect to fund up to 5 projects. Your total eligible project costs can be up to £50,000 to research the technical feasibility of your product. This will be managed through a research and development (R&D) contract and will last no longer than 3 months.

Phase 2

There is up to £1 million of funding available for phase 2. We expect to fund up to 2 projects from phase 1. Your total eligible project costs can be up to £500,000 to produce and test your product for full commercial implementation.

Your proposal

This competition asks organisations to develop innovative ideas for challenges specific to the postal and fast parcel environment. Proposals must comply with both of our primary objectives:

  1. Improve our ability to detect illicit goods passing through postal and fast parcel facilities at the UK border.
  2. Have no effect on the flow of goods.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) will test the efficacy of your solution at phase 2. Solutions must also be adaptive and non-disruptive and must work in line with current postal systems.

We strongly encourage you to attend our launch event. You will be able to ask questions about the UK postal border environment and speak to Home Office and Border Force stakeholders.

Specific themes

Your solution must address one or more of these ‘specific challenge’ areas, to develop a detection solution that is:

  • more automated, to reduce physical intervention in the scanning process
  • able to handle larger volumes, to increase how much we can scan in a given period
  • flexible, so it is more dynamic and adaptable

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects:

  • that do not offer innovative detection-focused solutions
  • that do not consider the impact their solution will have on the flow of goods through the border

3 December 2018
London briefing event
3 December 2018
Competition opens
16 January 2019 12:00pm
Registration closes
23 January 2019 12:00pm
Competition closes
15 March 2019
Applicants notified
12 April 2019
Phase 1 contracts awarded
12 April 2019

Before you start

To apply:

We will not accept late submissions. Your application is confidential.

A selected panel of experts will assess the quality your application. You must use Microsoft Word for the application form or your application will be ineligible.

Background and further information

About SBRI competitions

SBRI provides innovative solutions to challenges faced by the public sector. This can lead to better public services and improved efficiency and effectiveness. SBRI supports economic growth and enables the development of innovative products and services. It does this through the public procurement of research and development (R&D). SBRI generates new business opportunities for companies and provides a route to market for their ideas. It also bridges the seed funding gap experienced by many early-stage companies.

Further help and information

You can find information on how to enter this competition in the invitation to tender document, which is available for download on our secure site after registration.

Send questions about the particular requirements of this competition to

If you want help to find a project partner, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

If you need more information, call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email us at

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