Home Office call – explosives precursors

The Home Office is leading a public research call seeking to identify additives to or substitutions for explosives precursors and poisons to reduce the risks that they pose. This is closely linked to the implementation of EU regulations and poisons legislation amendments that the Forum has received separate briefing on.

The call seeks innovative proposals in the region of £60k from academia and industry to identify suitable additives or substitutions that could make the chemicals of interest non-viable for dangerous and illegal purposes, but without hampering their legitimate uses.

Initial details of the call have been published online at: https://www.innovateuk.org/sbri-substitutes.  Further information will be published on 19 May and a launch event (free to attend) will take place in Victoria on 10 June. If you would like to attend please email subsandadds2014[at]homeoffice.x.gsi.gov.uk

Background to call

Some explosive precursors and poisonous chemicals are due to be regulated under forthcoming amendments to UK poisons legislation and the ‘EU Marketing and Use of Explosives Precursors’ regulation. We are aiming to reduce the regulatory burden on legitimate users of the materials which are soon to be controlled by providing suitable alternatives that do not pose public safety risks and would therefore not require a licence under new rules.

Hence, this work aims to identify substitutes for, or additives to, the chemicals identified in these pieces of legislation, to make them non-viable for dangerous and illegal purposes, without hampering their legitimate uses.

For example, many explosives encountered by law enforcement are manufactured from everyday household chemicals or chemicals used by industry. Reducing the number of products that can be used to make explosives would:

  1. Make it harder to manufacture explosives illicitly;
  2. Reduce the regulatory burden on legitimate users to comply with legislation; and
  3. Reduce the policy and operational burden on government to counter the threat.

Bids demonstrating novel approaches and chemistry innovation are therefore invited in either or both of the following challenge areas:

  • Challenge 1 – Substitutes: to identify viable alternatives to the chemicals of interest which are less susceptible to malicious use, but are still effective for legitimate applications. This should be at minimal extra production cost and with minimal impact on manufacturing processes.
  • Challenge 2 – Additives: to identify substances that could be added to the chemicals of interest to make them less susceptible to malicious use but still effective  for legitimate applications. This should be at minimal extra production cost and with minimal impact on manufacturing processes.  This could be in to inhibit their effective use, make them easier to detect or for any other means to make them harder to be used illicitly.

The chemicals of most interest are identified in the recent consultations on: ‘EU Regulation on Marketing and Use of Explosives and Precursors’, and; ‘Changes to the Poisons Act 1972, Poisons Rules 1982, Poisons List 1982 and associated amendments’.  These can be found online here: http://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/precursors-and-poisons-consultations.