Airborne DNA Collection

Applications closed for the 12 week programme.

This is the second of our NSTIx OpTech Co-Creation projects. The first ‘Seeing in the Dark‘ was about protecting security cameras from IR sources.

About NSTIx OpTech Co-Creation

The National Security Technology and Innovation Exchange (NSTIx) is a government-led science, technology and innovation (ST&I) partnership that enables coherent and agile delivery of innovative national security outcomes through a co-ordinated and systematic approach to research and capability development.  

NSTIx has established a government-led network of themed Co-Creation Spaces (CCS). The CCS’ combine the respective power of specialist public and private sector partners in research, capability development and end user requirements. This supports the development of effective, user-driven technology at pace in areas that are critical to national security.  For more information, please see the NSTIx Leaflet’.  

Op Tech Co-Creation (OCCS) has engaged with a network of key Community Collaborators, to accelerate and leverage access to their existing networks of industry and academic Solution Providers.  

By responding to this Challenge (details provided in ‘Solution Provider Proposals – ‘our ask’ section) and participating in Co-Creation there is an exciting opportunity for collaboration between National Security, Community Collaborators and Solution Providers.  


Law Enforcement and National Security stakeholders have a requirement to collect human DNA samples from within buildings and other enclosed spaces for identification and/or confirmation purposes. In some scenarios, it’s difficult, dangerous or otherwise undesirable for forensics officers to enter the collection environment themselves to take DNA samples. This could be due to a live threat situation such as a kidnapping or hostage scenario, or because the collection environment is inaccessible or unsafe to enter.  

There are established and effective practices of manually swabbing surfaces and objects to collect non-airborne DNA samples, and for subsequently analysing such samples to identify specific people. Recent research has shown that DNA can be collected from air to identify nearby animals [1], however there is a gap to subsequently analyse and identify a specific person (using existing DNA databases) from these airborne samples. Further considerations are that the DNA of interest will be within a building or an enclosed space and that the person collecting the DNA will remain nearby but not within the building and so must be able to do this remotely. The collected DNA would subsequently be analysed.  

The table below illustrates the area of focus for this Challenge, i.e., the identification of capabilities and techniques to provide the DNA analysis and subsequent individual fingerprint from airborne DNA.  


For the purposes of this Challenge, we are seeking innovative solutions for airborne ‘processing’ and ‘output’ elements above. Proposals may be for complete, or partial solutions.  

The Challenge

This Challenge will be run over a period of up to 12 weeks in total. As a Solution Provider, you will be part of an Agile team working collaboratively with the Project Sponsor and Agile Delivery Manager with these suggested workstreams:  

  • A brief review of the technology landscape.  
  • Lab based studies to review the feasibility of collecting airborne DNA samples.  
  • Lab based studies to show processing collected airborne DNA samples from air with the aim  

to distinguish a specific individual from the samples is feasible.  

  • Demonstrate a working prototype.  
  • A future roadmap of how this tech may be matured.  

We are seeking one or more Solution Providers to propose on the outlined Challenge above. Collaborative proposals are encouraged to pool their collective strengths to co-create a viable solution to this challenge. Additional funding may be made available for collaborative proposals.  

Community Partners are welcome to participate in both coordination and delivery of the Workstreams to support the Solution Partners – please contact us to discuss this approach if you are considering a multi-partner approach.  

Commercial Consideration:
We are happy to be guided by Solution Providers proposals regarding the number and duration of these sprints within the maximum 12-week period.  


Key dates and timelines

17 April

Challenge goes live and open for submissions.

04 May

All parties will be invited to an open Briefing Call via MS Teams.

11 May

Frequently Asked Questions – responses (FAQ): All enquiries from the Briefing Call will be collated, and responses sent to all parties in an FAQ document by close of business. 

19 May

The deadline for proposals to be submitted is close of business. Please include the title of the Challenge ‘Airborne DNA Collection’ in your email. Please note that shortlisted Collaborators may be invited to pitch prior to contract award.  

29 May-02 June

The OCCS Challenge Team aims to select a shortlist of successful proposals by the week commencing Monday 29th May and invited to a pitch day. 

14 June

The OCCS Challenge Team pitch day. An option to attend face to face or online will be made. 


Final responses for this challenge are to be provided in MS Office (Word, PowerPoint, Excel) or PDF format to HMGCC via email. Please also cc in the coordinating Community Collaborators who introduced the Challenge, e.g. Plexal. 

Alternative Formats

If you wish to discuss other forms of response such as a video presentation or live demonstration please contact us via the Clarification process to discuss your approach.

Please note that by submitting a proposal in response to this challenge you are agreeing to the terms and conditions of contract as issued and are thereby making a formal offer of contract, from which the Authority shall have the right to accept in part or in full should your proposal be deemed acceptable.  


All applicants will be provided with written feedback via the Community Collaborator once both technical and commercial assessments have been concluded. We will endeavour to provide feedback within 2 weeks of the competition deadline.  

Commercial Engagement

The OCCS challenge team will select Solution Providers for this Challenge on the technical and commercial merit of the proposal received, commercial contracts and funding will be engaged through Cranfield University. Intellectual Property deliverables will be engaged with the OCCS under the terms attached. 


Solution Providers are invited to submit Fixed Price proposals for the 12 week engagement. When preparing pricing please provide pricing against 3 monthly payment points in line with the sprint-profile of your project.  

Please note that by submitting a proposal in response to this challenge you are agreeing to the terms and conditions of contract as issued and are thereby making a formal offer of contract, from which the Authority shall have the right to accept in part or in full should your proposal be deemed acceptable.  

Please note, the information above is simplified from the full challenge documents. For full details on the challenge, timescales, and evaluation criteria, please see below or for any questions email Mandeep.