White paper explores how the NHS can improve cybersecurity

A new whitepaper from Imperial College London discussing how the NHS can improve cybersecurity has been presented at the House of Lords.

In 2017 the NHS experienced a ransomware attack which affected around 16 health service organisations across England and Scotland. The ransomware, developed by the US to exploit the CVE-2019-0708 weakness in Microsoft, demanded payments of $300 and $600 to regain access to obscured data, leading many practices to resort to pen and paper, send patients to other hospitals, and warn people to only use their local hospital for emergencies. The attack affected most systems, including telephones. The ransomware also affected public organisations in Russia, Ukraine, Singapore, Taiwan, and India. It is estimated that the ransomware cost the NHS £92million. Over 19,000 appointments had to be cancelled, costing around £20million, and the upgrades to IT systems and clean up in the aftermath cost £72million.

Following the attack, the NHS signed a deal to upgrade local service computers to Windows 10. The ransomware uses EternalBlue exploit, developed by the NSA, which gains access through weaknesses in older Windows operating systems such as Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP. The same weaknesses aren’t present in Windows 10. Microsoft issued a patch to remove the weakness in older systems that made the attack possible. The NHS also increased infrastructure spending by £60million following the attack, focusing on vulnerable services such as trauma and ambulance services. In 2o18, the government released a report titled ‘Security and Cyber Resilience in Health and Care’. In the report the NHS was promised:

  • £150million investment over the next three years
  • A new Cyber Security Operations Centre
  • A new Data Protection toolkit
  • The implementation of changes recommended by the Chief Information Officer for Health and Care’s review of the May 2017 WannaCry attack
  • Support for 25 local NHS organisations through the ‘Blue Teams’ pilot
  • A full estimation of the cost of the cyber attack.

According to Kaspersky Lab, 75,000 of their clients reported WannaCry attacks since the NHS was affected in May 2017. The data also showed that WannaCry was responsible for 28% of attacks in the third quarter of 2018, up by two-thirds compared to the third quarter of 2017. Many organisations installed the fix released by Microsoft but many remained vulnerable, including Boeing, which was hit in March 2018 as the patches were not in place. The ready availability of these fixes meant they were able to recover from the attack quickly. Kaspersky recommended that organisations stay informed of updates and patches available for all operating systems.

The Imperial College London whitepaper comes from the Institute of Global Health Innovation and was lead by Professor the Lord Ara Darzi. The paper points to outdated systems, a skills deficit, a lack of investment, and a lack of awareness of cybersecurity as the main issues still leaving the NHS open to ransomware. The report, which compiled evidence from the UK and from health systems around the world, praised what has already been done but recommended further investment. It also recommends employing cybersecurity professionals on IT teams, installing ‘fire breaks’ into their systems to isolate certain parts if they become infected, and enforcing communication systems that allow staff to access information on cybersecurity and what to do in the event of an attack. The report also detailed the need for cybersecurity to be at the centre of new medical technologies such as robotics, implant devices, and gene-based medicine.

New reports suggest that ransomware is becoming more sophisticated. Attacks can affect all levels of NHS systems, including test results, medical records, and could even allow hackers to steal a patient’s identity. The greatest risk involves patient data being altered, which could result in them receiving the wrong care or major issues being unrecognised. Wannacry attacks on Singapore healthcare systems in 2018 compromised 150million patient records. Most modern hospital records, test results, and patient information details are stored digitally, making it crucial to ensure they are protected. The financial impact can also cause huge problems for the NHS, which is currently undergoing problems with funding.

Dr Saira Ghafur, one of the main authors of the whitepaper, said: “Addressing the issue of cyber security will take time, as we need a shift in culture, awareness and infrastructure. Security needs to be factored into the design of digital tools and not be an afterthought.”

“NHS trusts are already under financial pressure, so we need to ensure they have the funds available to ensure robust protection against potential threats.”

The main focus of the report is the need for investment. Lord Darzi recommended further investment into research on how the NHS is vulnerable and how it can be strengthened. The report includes details of the recommendation from the Department of Health that the NHS create a Care Computer Emergency Response Team to support cybersecurity. However, they said that all staff across the NHS must be made aware of how to maintain cybersecurity. This includes measures such as not sharing passwords, never leaving computers unlocked, and not emailing data, especially sensitive patient data, to personal email addresses. Staff being made aware of these simple changes could prevent malware from entering into computer systems.

The main target of the Wannacry malware was SingHealth, the healthcare system in Singapore. One factor was website defacing, which was done through SingHealth sites mounted on WordPress. A report from the CSA examined the lasting effects of the attack and how cybersecurity has changed in the country since. A year on from the attack, there was a 30% drop in phishing URLs with a Singapore link, 16,100 in total. The number of phishing attempts increased during major events such as the US-North Korea summit in Singapore. This year, Singapore’s independent privacy watchdog fined SingHealth $750,000 for failing to secure patient data. Advanced threat detection software has been installed across SingHealth networks access to dedicated workstations has been restricted. Database monitoring has been put into use to spot vulnerabilities in coding. SingHealth representatives have spoken about their commitment to improving cybersecurity and reacting quickly to any threats.

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New Head of the Defence and Security Accelerator announced

The Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA) has announced the appointment of Anita Friend as its new Head.

Anita Friend comes from the Home Office where she was responsible for increasing our resilience to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive attacks.

Accepting the role she said: “I am really excited to be taking on this role. DASA’s mission of maintaining strategic advantage over adversaries by innovating is one I’m passionate about delivering. I have seen first-hand the step-change that innovation can bring in keeping the nation safe and I firmly believe in the benefits of having diversity of thought as well as a collaborative approach.”

Welcoming Ms Friend, Director Defence Innovation Clare Cameron, said: “I am delighted that Anita has taken on this role. She will bring a wealth of experience to help DASA reach out across industry and academia and bring solutions to help protect the defence and security of the UK.”

She went on to thank the outgoing Head of DASA, Lucy Mason, for leading the organisation over the past two years: “Lucy has provided fantastic leadership to the DASA team since its infancy, helping it expand its remit and provide funding of more than £58m to suppliers. I wish her very well in her new role and thank her for helping DASA become such an integral part of defence and security innovation.”

Ms Friend will be starting as Head DASA in September.

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European Investment Bank joins EDA online defence funding tool

The European Investment Bank has joined the EDA ‘IdentiFunding’ online defence funding tool.

The European Defence Agency (EDA) has added the European Investment Bank (EIB) to its online defence funding hub to create opportunities for funding such as grants and loans. The tool, IdentiFunding, allows researchers to find investment for defence-related projects and innovation.

The tool is available through the EDA’s European Funding Gateway for Defence which is available for industry, Ministries of Defence, Research and Technology organisations, and academia. The tool, launched in March 2019, allows defence-interested stakeholders to identify on a personalised and tailored basis the precise EU funding schemes available for their specific defence-relevant projects.

The EIB has now agreed to add its project loans to the spectrum of more than 20 funding sources at European level that are scanned instantly by the ‘IdentiFunding’ tool based on a confidential and swift 10-minutes/10-answers process. These loans can cover up to 50% of the total cost for both public and private bodies for projects in line with EIB’s lending criteria and priorities.

IdentiFunding aims t0 save time and human resources and to reduce cost. It is currently being used by 180 defence organisations from EU member states including SMEs. It will be regularly updated to include new opportunities from organisations such as the European Defence Fund and the InvestEU Programme.

Under IdentiFunding loans and grants are available from Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR), the European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP), the EU Structural Funds, COSME, LIFE and Erasmus+. The agreement between the EIB and EDA aims to secure projects that improve dual-use technologies, civilian security infrastructure, and cybersecurity.

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Government explores solutions to sexual violence in conflict

The UK government is taking measures to tackle the issue of sexual violence in conflict zones with the MOD playing a large part.

The UK is getting involved in the fight against sexual violence in conflict zones along with other members of the UN. In recognition of the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict (19 June 2019) the UK government and MOD have been involved in initiatives to tackle the problem. According to the UN ‘conflict-related sexual violence’ includes “rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution, forced pregnancy, forced abortion, enforced sterilization, forced marriage and any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity perpetrated against women, men, girls or boys that is directly or indirectly linked to a conflict.”

Data from the Gender-Based Violence Information Management System (GBVIMS) shows that Internationally Displaced Persons (IDP) are the most vulnerable group, accounting for 87% of all reported cases of sexual violence in 2018. Women and girls are more often affected, accounting for 98% of the reported incidents of gender-based sexual violence in the fourth quarter of last year. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the UN’s Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict which aims to reduce incidents of violence during and after conflict and ensure the needs of survivors are met.

There has been a lot of focus on the issue in recent months in relation to the ongoing conflict in Sudan. British troops have been deployed to the Malakal camp in the South of the country to teach self-defence methods to women and girls, as part of a larger UN peacekeeping mission. The programme also aims to help identify risks and give women the knowledge and confidence to report any incidences and seek help.

The UN is aiming for a joined-up approach between services available in South Sudan to tackle all examples of gender-based violence, particularly the stigma that survivors face which can often prevent them from reporting abuse. Captain Euan Irvine, lead instructor and Malakal Engineer Group Second in Command, said: “We are continually seeking opportunities to assist with the protection of the most vulnerable people in South Sudan to prevent incidents of sexual violence in conflict. This initiative allows us to contribute to empowering the women we live and work alongside.”

“By coaching women on basic self-defence methods, it gives them the self-confidence to be able to make an assessment of the situation and react effectively to keep them safe.”

Workshop participant Nyakot John Jok said: “The situation in the camp is very poor because of money. We have food but we do not have money to buy things.  I have learnt how to escape from someone who wants to fight me or wants to attack me. It makes me feel safer and I am very happy with that.”

The UK has also announced the formation of the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative (PSVI) Survivor Champion to support the work of the Special Representative appointed by the Prime Minister to tackle the issue. The role will involve engaging with networks of survivors, including children born of rape, and encouraging a holistic approach to their recovery and an effort to tackle the stigma they may face in their communities. Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon said of his role:

“Putting survivors at the heart of the UK’s Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative is vital to honouring all survivors of this horrific crime. The PSVI Survivor Champion will ensure that the needs and concerns of survivors are central to our policy and programming on this issue. Now is the #TimeForJustice.”

The UK will also host the Time For Justice: Putting Survivors First international conference in London on 18-20 November of this year. The conference will gather international governments and agencies as well as survivors to explore approaches to the issue and methods of holding perpetrators to account. Lord Ahmad said: “The UK has trained over 17,000 military and police personnel on sexual violence issues, deployed UK experts over 90 times to affected countries, and committed over £46 million in funding to support projects around the world. Unfortunately, much more still needs to be done.”

“We will agree concrete actions with our international partners that will make a real difference to the lives of survivors. These will include international standards for gathering and preserving evidence, accountability and justice mechanisms, and an international declaration of humanity.”

In April of the year, the UN adopted Resolution 2467 which aims to create a well-rounded approach to tackling the issue. This includes:

  • Increasing the consequences of committing CRSV (Conflict-Related Sexual Violence)
  • Allowing the UN Security Council to use sanctions against those who commit CRSV
  • Creating a survivor-centred approach
  • Calling for reparations and livelihood support for survivors
  • Calling for empowering women as a way to tackle the root cause.

The UN highlights structural gender inequality as the underlying cause of the problem of sexual violence. As such, it recommends an approach that doesn’t just tackle the immediate aftermath of attacks, but the problems within the wider community. This includes dismantling the stigma that survivors face and challenging the idea that committing sexual offences is ‘cost-free’, and providing ongoing support for victims, financially and psychologically, to help them rebuild their lives.

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MOD to develop laser technology

The MOD is developing laser technology that is powered purely by electricity and does not require ammunition.

Direct Energy Weapons (DEW) use laser technology that can utilise power from a vehicle’s engine or generator. This reduces running costs and increases flexibility.

The weapons use high energy light beams to destroy enemy drones and missiles. The MOD is also researching Radio Frequency weapons that can disrupt enemy electronics and computer systems.

Penny Mordaunt, Defence Secretary, said: Laser and Radio Frequency technologies have the potential to revolutionise the battlefield by offering powerful and cost-effective weapons systems to our Armed Forces.”

“This significant investment demonstrates our commitment to ensuring our Armed Forces operate at the forefront of military technology.”

The new systems are expected to be trialled in 2023 on Royal Navy ships and Army vehicles but, once developed, both technologies could be operated by all three services. The Armed Forces will use these exercises to get a better understanding of DEW, test the systems to their limits and assess how they could be integrated with existing platforms.

The MOD aims to invest up to £130m in this package of Directed Energy Weapons, including the construction of the demonstrators, the creation of a new Joint Programme Office and the recruitment of personnel to manage the programme. The MOD already has plans for initial trials of laser weapons systems, with the Dragonfire demonstrator commissioned by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory to be tested later this year.

The Dragonfire represents a world-first in laser weapons technology, combining multiple laser beams to produce a weapons system that is more powerful than its predecessors and resistant to the most challenging environmental conditions. The MOD recently announced in a Prior Information Notice (PIN) its plan to create three new DEW demonstrations to assess its potential as a future innovation to improve the performance of combat vehicles.

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Australian Defence Minister visits Type 26 ship Glasgow

The Australian Minister for Defence has visited BAE Systems’ Govan shipyard to witness the build progress being made on GLASGOW, the first in class City Class Type 26.

During her visit to see Glasgow, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds announced the latest Type 26 supplier contract with Airspeed, an Adelaide-based company specialising in ‘design and build’ applications of composite materials for aerospace, maritime and energy-related projects.

Airspeed has been awarded the contract to provide the replenishment at sea stump mast (RASSM) for the first batch of three Type 26 ships which will run until 2023. The RASSM allows for the resupply of ammunition and small of amounts of stores whilst the ship is at sea.

This is the second supplier from South Australia to supply into the Type 26 programme as part of our Global Access Program, joining: Electro Optic Systems, Liferaft Systems Australia, Thales Australia, Mackay Consolidated Rubber, Rowlands Metalworks and CBG Systems (Moonraker).

Steve Barlow, Airspeed Managing Director, said; “In recent years, we have evolved our aerospace background to roll out lightweight structural composites for the Collins class submarines and local warship programmes. This latest contract with BAE Systems to design and build a lightweight replenishment at sea stump mast (RASSM) for the Type 26 is a great opportunity to showcase the talent and technology innovation we have in our company.”

BAE Systems Australia’s new subsidiary ASC Shipbuilding has been awarded a contract by the Australian Government that provides the framework for the design and build of nine Hunter Class frigates for the Royal Australian Navy.

Work has already begun to mobilise the Hunter Class Frigate Program, and the Head Contract signed earlier this year incorporates detailed scope for the design and engineering work necessary to allow prototyping to commence in 2020, and to ensure steel is cut on the first ship at South Australia’s Osborne Naval Shipyard in 2022.

Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC, said: “It was fantastic to be hosted by BAE Systems today at Govan shipyard where I witnessed the progress of GLASGOW, first in class Type 26.
“Airspeed is the latest Australian company to win an export opportunity to supply the UK’s Type 26 frigate programme, and will design and build the replenishment at sea stump mast for the UK’s newest warships. I’m delighted that another home-grown company is able to benefit from the Type 26 programme.”

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© 2019 BAE Systems

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Winning in Combat: Strong, innovative systems are the key to leveraging the information advantage

Sascha Giese, Head Geek™ at software company SolarWinds, takes a look at how the advent of the digital age is transforming  defence both on the battlefield and in the cyber realm. 

Information wins battles, or even prevents them. This is nothing new; where there’s conflict, there’s military intelligence, and usually those who hold the most information are the most successful. Rule 101 of winning in combat situations is to protect key information and learn about the enemy and their plan. While information has always been used as a tool to gain the upper hand, it hasn’t always been regarded as a weapon itself.  

But the advent of the fourth industrial revolution – the digital age – and our reliance on technological systems in every part of our work and personal lives means that this could change profoundly. Already, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a fundamental part of modern warfare – military systems equipped with AI can handle larger volumes of data far more efficiently. Not only are the systems more efficient but, thanks to the innate computing and decision-making capabilities of AI, self-control, regulation, and actuation of combat systems are improved. AI allows more action, in shorter time frame, and decisions are purely based on facts.  

This may still seem rather futuristic, but to be disruptive and enable the use of information within battleground scenarios, the systems that support the use of data and technology in the smartest way need to be digitally on point. Just as tank must be effective to safely transport troops across dangerous landscapes, the systems that underpin information and the way it is used need to have the digital advantage to support the desired outcome. Equally, these systems must have fundamental security controls in place to help defend against threats, and it is therefore understandable that both are a key priority for organisations such as the Armed Forces Communications & Electronics Association (AFCEA)  

Becoming digitally transformed  

To achieve the kind of digital transformation that enables the defence sector to maximise technology and information in both attack and defence scenarios, the first vital step is for organisations to recognise their current position and identify what tools and services they need to best support their functions. This is especially important when looking at technology such as AI or blockchain. As already mentioned, while technologies like these hold considerable promise for security, efficiency, and ROI, it’s important to implement these for a specific use case and organisational needGood news: technologies and processes proven in the private sector can easily be converted, and still apply in the defence sector.  

Some practical ways to support the digital transformation process can include: 

  • Simplifying current IT – Complexity often leads to mistakes, longer processes, and increased costs across the board. 
  • Keeping IT flexible – Ensuring compatibility between on-premises and cloud platforms is crucial –hybrid environments are now the norm for many agencies.  
  • Maintaining IT resilience – Defence teams that need to run 24/7 should use systems that ensure both data availability and data protection. Having highly available, resilient data will be beneficial when adopting a cloud strategy. 
  • Creating a transformational culture – Units should consider how current operations might slow down a more rapid approach to continuous improvement. A change in culture, if not considered, could halt these strategies before they even begin. But changing the culture starts at the top. If commanders are unwilling to consider change, it’s likely that their subordinates are also resistant. 


The second step requires IT leaders to consider implementing a transformation strategy that supports their goals. A vital part of this process involves enlisting the right people from within the organisation with expertise to guide the process and implement the best tools that can help enable visibility and management throughout the whole process. According to the SolarWinds® IT Trends Report 2019: Skills for Tech Pros of Tomorrow, in the next three to five years the top two skills tech professionalin the public sector plan to develop are security management (57%) and data science and analytics (39%) 

Defending the defenders 

To help protect agencies, employing a suite of solutions that can accurately detect anomalies originating both inside and outside the network is beneficial; these should include standard network monitoring and firewall solutions. Defence teams may also want to consider implementing automated patch management, user device tracking, access management, and other strategies that can provide true defence-in-depth capabilities. 

The best form of defence is advanced preparation, which can be done by proactively working to strengthen network defence systems in anticipation of the next threat. Some practical steps to help achieve this include identifying and eliminating vulnerabilities, updating and testing security procedures, prioritising education, taking a holistic view of everyone’s roles, and implementing the proper procedures for when an attack happensWhen you’re in a war zone, you don’t want to be held back by the risk of a cyberattack taking you offline. 

Maintaining the balance between disruptive tech and procurement realities 

While there are calls for innovation, agility, flexibility, simplicity, and better security, implementation of new technologies within the defence sector must take place within constraints posed by methodical procurement practices, meticulous security documentation, and sometimes-archaic network policies. This is often easier said than done. Migrating away from proven legacy technologies towards modern network solutions can be one of the most time-consuming and expensive endeavours facing the IT administrators managing their defence teams’ systems. Prolonged procurement processes and the need for training, different skillsets, and adjusted mindsets must all be considered. 

Despite these challenges, modern systems can provide great benefitsand can create the foundation in preparation for future innovations. Though these will likely need to fit the mould of existing defence processes, the baseline will be in place to support ever more scalable and cuttingedge solutions that proactively support the use of information to defeat opponents and help with government cyber defence. 

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Prime Minister visits Northwood Headquarters

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, met with members of Joint Forces Command personnel and their families as she toured Northwood Headquarters.

While at the Military Base, the Prime Minister met with military personnel and their families to thank them for their service.

The visit was part of a larger tour of the major commands at Northwood, which includes NATO Maritime Command Headquarters, UK Permanent Joint Headquarters and Command Operations for the Royal Navy.

The Prime Minister was briefed on Operations currently being conducted by UK forces and coalition partners worldwide.

Wrapping up her visit the Prime Minister delivered a speech to JFC staff, in which she praised JFC and PJHQ’s unwavering support to the delivery of military operations across the globe.

The Prime Minister singled out the wholehearted commitment of service families: “I cannot imagine how it must feel to wave goodbye to someone you care deeply about, knowing you won’t see them again for many months – or even hear from them, if they are serving out of reach beneath the waves as part of our continuous at-sea deterrent.

“I want to take this opportunity to recognise the contribution that you make, and to thank each one of you for helping to make our Armed Forces the very best in the world.”

The Prime Minister concluded her speech with by thanking all of those who serve: “And as I come to the end of my time in office, I am proud to finish the way I started three years ago– by standing up and thanking our fantastic armed forces for all that they do.

“You are the best in the world, and I wish you all the very best for the future.”

image © Crown Copyright

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Rolls-Royce wins contract to improve Type-23 engines

Rolls-Royce has won an £85million contract to improve Type-23 engines and support Spey gas turbines.

The contract includes the improvement of Type-23 engines form the UK as well as NATO partners Belgium, Portugal, and the Netherlands. The Spey gas turbines help with propulsion as well as anti-submarine measures.

The contract is expected to save the MOD £35million over the next eight years and encourage Rolls-Royce to reduce repair times, acquire spares at a lower cost, and cut back on unnecessary work. The majority of repair work will be carried out at RWG in Aberdeen, supported by Rolls-Royce.

Start Andrew, Defence Minister, said: “This £85m contract demonstrates the UK’s commitment to modernisation through the maintenance of our formidable Type-23s. This work continues the British tradition of supporting our closest allies and solidifying our global position as world-leaders in advanced maritime technology and development.”

Matt Nadin, Director Naval Fleet Services at Rolls-Royce said: “This vital support contract builds upon our Rolls-Royce target to achieve and sustain increased Spey engine availability to the Royal Navy and their NATO partners, The Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal.”

The contract was announced by Stuart Andrew at HMNB Davenport where the Royal Navy is training for fighting, emergency situations, and humanitarian aid. Rolls-Royce will project manage the work being carried out by RWG.

Scotland is also the centre of manufacturing for the Type-23 frigates and the new aircraft carriers. The frigates have been used for a variety of missions including operations in the South Atlantic and work securing trade routes.

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Bioprocessing solutions fund launched by DASA

DASA has created a competition to find new bioprocessing innovations to make recycling easier for the armed forces.

DASA is looking for innovative energy powered bioprocessing systems. Bioprocessing involves waste including oil and fuel being broken down with the use of microbes so that the byproducts can be turned into reusable products.

Currently, the MOD employs waste management contractors across all organisations which can be expensive. This creates the opportunity for new systems to save the MOD money.

The £1.35million fund from DASA will be awarded to prototypes that allow the MOD to recycle waste on-site. The first phase of the competitions will award a share of £1million between three to five ideas.

The competition will be open to anyone from across the supply base including academics, large companies, and SMEs. Entrants do not have to have worked for the MOD before to qualify.

The second phase of the competition will include the funding of permanent systems for military bases and portable products for missions and exercises. The first phase of the competition is expected to run from September this year until October.

Entrants will be expected to address either the energy powering bioprocessing, the microbes used, or the capture of byproducts to be reused. To help understand the problem space and to facilitate opportunities for collaboration, an event will be held at RAF Brize Norton on 25 September 2019 and interested organisations can sign up here.

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