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Scotland issues challenge: can tech help stop illicit trade?

The Scottish government has unveiled its third round of CivTech challenges – offering contracts for technologies that can solve public sector problems – and tackling illicit trade is among them.

Specifically, the challenge is to find a solution to the trade in stolen or counterfeit goods, which it says account for 5 per cent of products imported into the EU, and include “products such as footwear, aircraft parts, cosmetics and foodstuffs.”

The thrust of the challenge is to identify technological ways to uncover or predict illicit trading at the local community level, preferably using a data approach and not relying on surveillance, with an emphasis on educating the public on the dangers of illicit goods and “making the trade in illicit products socially unacceptable within our communities and financially unviable to serious organised crime.”

The intention is to develop a standalone, web-based application that can provide predictive analysis on consumer searches for illicit and counterfeit products and which could be used as a preventative mechanism to reduce the need for law enforcement. According to CivTech, the solution will be assessed by gauging whether there has been a reduction in the demand for counterfeit and illicit products.

 “The problems caused by illicit trade are numerous. Consumers are often unaware that they are buying these products, and the repercussion these transactions can have on themselves and their communities,” says the Scottish Anti-Illicit Trade Group, which is one of the challenge sponsors along with Police Scotland, Trading Standard Scotland, and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).  

“Illicit products often fail to meet health and safety standards, with significant personal safety risks to the user. Much of revenue generated from illicit trade funds further criminal activity – for example – cigarette smuggling contributes about 20 per cent of terrorist funds worldwide.”

Applications can be filed between June 11 and July 2 – more information here.

Check out this video from SAITG chair Kenny MacAskill that explains why the initiative is so important:


Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash


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