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Making it Harder for Criminals to Evade Justice

27 November 2017

An advanced fingerprint visualisation technology which will make it more difficult for criminals to avoid justice has been licensed by Ploughshare Innovations to Foster+Freeman. Developed jointly by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), the Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) and Loughborough University, the new technique will make it harder for criminals to destroy their fingerprints.


Their work means fingerprints can now be recovered from surfaces that were previously extremely challenging or impossible to work with. This includes items exposed to high temperatures, including IED components and fired ammunition cases as well as metal items that have been deliberately cleaned, such as knives. The new technique could help identify those responsible for IED attacks, or in domestic crime scenes.

The cutting-edge technology uses an innovative chemical to develop the fingerprint, making it visible so that forensic scientists can identify individuals. The project started life at Loughborough University where the concept was inadvertently discovered by Dr Paul Kelly, and developed by Dstl into an operational capability. The licence has been negotiated by Ploughshare Innovations, Dstl’s technology transfer company and has since been licensed by Foster + Freeman (F+F), one of the world’s foremost forensic science equipment suppliers. F+F will refine the technology before making it commercially available next year.

Minister for Defence Procurement Harriett Baldwin said:

“British innovation is progressing at a rapid pace and we are investing millions in it to keep our country safe. Whether it’s used on a foreign battlefield or a British crime scene, this pioneering fingerprint technology will make it much harder for criminals to escape justice."

Commenting on the announcement, Steve Thorngate – from the Defence Security Analysis Division of Dstl, said:

“Through our work with Dr Paul Kelly at Loughborough University, the ability to significantly increase fingerprint recovery rates from items recovered, means that criminals will find it much harder to conceal their identity. Although the technology needs further refinement, it will be of significant benefit to forensic scientists across the world”.

Bob Dartnell (Managing Director) from F+F added:

”By having access to this technology we will be able to provide a major step forward in fingerprint detection and visualisation, which means our customers will have significant gains in their capability, improving detection rates and convictions”.

The Home Office’s Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST), the organisation behind the world recognised Fingermark Visualisation Manual, worked closely with Dstl to test the technology in challenging and realistic scenarios. Currently in the final stages of refinement, an LFT development chamber will be introduced to the market in the summer of 2018 when it is expected to be of immediate interest to police and forensic examiners worldwide.


Notes to editors

Ploughshare Innovations Limited

Ploughshare Innovations is the technology transfer organisation for the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD). It turns ‘swords into ploughshares’ by enabling businesses to gain access to defence and security technology developed by leading government laboratories. Ploughshare ensures Government technology is put to good use and benefits the UK, society as a whole, and humanity by applying innovative technology to improve people’s lives. Since its creation in 2005, the company has licensed 120 technologies and attracted £140 million of investment. Read more about Ploughshare.

Contact: info@ploughshareinnovations.com | @ploughshare1


The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) maximises the impact of science and technology (S&T) for the defence and security of the UK, supplying sensitive and specialist S&T services for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and wider government.

Dstl is a trading fund of the MOD, run along commercial lines. It is one of the principal government organisations dedicated to S&T in the defence and security field, with three main sites at Porton Down, near Salisbury, Portsdown West, near Portsmouth, and Fort Halstead, near Sevenoaks.

Dstl works with a wide range of partners and suppliers in industry, in academia and overseas. Around 60% of MOD’s Science and Technology Programme is delivered by these external partners and suppliers

Contact: 01980 658666 or 07901 892660  |  press@dstl.gov.uk | @dstlmod

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