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Government puts up £2m for research into finding terrorists in crowds

A competition has been launched by the government to develop technology capable of spotting terrorists in crowds.

Up to £2m is to be made available to fund research into techniques that could boost efforts to protect citizens from bomb or gun attacks.

The government hopes the scheme will yield new methods that will improve the surveillance and detection of potential threats in crowds.

It comes after Britain was hit by a flurry of attacks launched in locations where large numbers of people were present.

Counter-terror agencies are running 500 investigations involving 3,000 individuals at any one time as they confront an unprecedented threat.

Security Minister Ben Wallace said: “In light of the horrific attacks in London and Manchester, the Government has committed to review its counter-terror strategy and further to this I am announcing today that we are making up to £2m available to fund research into cutting edge technology and behavioural science projects designed to keep people safe in crowds.

“The threat from terror does not stand still so neither will we, which is why we are calling on the best and the brightest from the science and technology sector to come forward with their ideas and proposals to support our ongoing work to keep people safe.”

The competition, ‘Improving crowd resilience’, is seeking research proposals to reduce the threat from terrorist attacks involving weapons or explosives in public spaces.

It is being run in a partnership between the Home Office and Defence and Security Accelerator, with support from the Royal Society.

Technical experts will provide more details of the competition at an event in London later this month. They are looking for “innovative or novel ideas to reduce the threat from the terrorist or malicious use of explosives and weapons in public spaces by using the crowd as a sensor.”

The Defence and Security Accelerator website says proposals should be for “technologies, systems and behavioural sciences, as part of a whole systems approach.

“We envisage these capabilities and systems being used in crowded spaces, such as shopping centres, sports stadia and entertainment venues.”

Lucy Mason, head of the Accelerator, which was launched last year to seek out security innovations, said: “The terrible terrorist attacks in London and Manchester shocked and appalled all of us.

“Protecting people from terrorism is something we can all do, industry and academics and public servants.

“We don’t have all the answers.

“So we must bring together the brightest minds from the private sector, and academia to help find solutions to help keep our country and people safe and secure.

“The Defence and Security Accelerator exists to help government find and exploit game-changing ideas to help the security services and police stay one step ahead of those who threaten our safety.

“By funding and fast tracking the development of real solutions, we help to bring the innovation community together, rapidly.

“So today I reach out to our innovation community to be part of something bigger and show their support for their country.

“I’d encourage anyone who feels they have a great idea that can help keep our crowded areas safe to visit our website for more information on this competition.”

In August last year Germany considered installing advanced facial recognition technology at airports and train stations in order to help prevent terrorist attacks. 

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