HMGCC CHALLENGE: eSIM reader for officer safety

Applications close: 1 February 2024

Apply now

Connected Places Catapult is working alongside His Majesty’s Government Communications Centre (HMGCC) and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) to deliver solutions to a co-creation challenge, to develop technology that can gather the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) from a mobile phone’s electronic SIM card to help keep national security officers safe.

The Challenge

National security has a requirement to read IMSI numbers from mobile phones and other small electronic devices used by members of staff. Current practice usually involves removing the physical SIM card from the device and placing it into a reader that interrogates the card and displays its IMSI number. 

However, mobile phone manufacturers are beginning to move away from using removable SIM cards towards embedded or integrated electronic SIM cards (eSIM). 

Apple has begun use eSIM in America, and it is expected that many other manufacturers will also transition from physical SIM cards to eSIMs in the near future. 

Commercial software solutions are available that read eSIMs, but they also collect collateral data such as contact lists and SMS messages in addition to IMSI numbers. This is unacceptable in this situation as it contravenes data handling regulations. There is currently, therefore, no acceptable means to read and record IMSI numbers from the emerging generation of eSIM enabled mobile phones and devices. 

Outline of the opportunity

This challenge will last for 12 weeks and has an indicative budget of up to £60,000 for single organisations and £120,000 per consortium. There is potential for multiple projects to be funded. 

There are six desirable functions for solutions put forward. They must be able to read and display IMSI numbers from a wide range of unlocked mobile phones that use eSIMs; and where more than one eSIM is active within a given mobile device, the solutions must be capable of reading and displaying the IMSI number for each SIM. 

Solutions should read and display the IMSI number of the phone of interest only, and no other data from this phone – nor any data from other phones – nearby. 

Outcomes must not pose a risk of damaging or corrupting the device being read or its associated eSIM; and the solutions should be intuitive to use so that non-technical people can read and record IMSI numbers effectively, with little or no training. 

In addition, it is desirable, for the solutions to read and display IMSI numbers from conventional SIM cards – and satphone equivalents – in addition to those from eSIMs. 

There is interest in developing innovative technology to approximately TRL 5 or 6, but we are not looking for horizon scanning, technology mapping or low TRL developments. We are not prescriptive on the format of the concept demonstrator, but it must comply with data protection and GDPR, and data aggregation must be considered and handled securely. 

What’s on offer to SMEs?


Access to up to £120,000

Investment Support

One-to-one sessions with an experienced investment coach.

Trial Support

This could include, but is not limited to trial design training, deployment support, trial monitoring and evaluation support.

Demonstration Day

An opportunity to showcase the success of your trials and meet investors, industry leaders, Government and academia at the end of the programme.

Business Development

Business development opportunities and introductions to potential customers.

Marketing Support

One-to-one sessions with an experienced marketing coach.

Who should apply?

This challenge is open to sole innovators as well as industry, academic and research organisations of all types and sizes. There is no requirement for security clearances. Solution providers or collaborators from countries listed by the UK Government under trade sanctions and/or arms embargoes, are not eligible to take part. 

Successful applicants will be invited to a pitch day, giving them a chance to meet the HMGCC Co-Creation team and pitch their proposals during 20 minute presentations, followed by questions.

After the pitch day, a final funding decision will be made. Feedback will be given to unsuccessful applicants in a timely manner. 

Clarifying questions or general requests for assistance can be submitted directly to prior to the cut-off date. These clarifying questions may be technical, procedural, or commercial in subject, or anything else where assistance is required. Please note that answered questions will be published to allow a fair and open competition. 

Key dates

Online Briefing: 9 January 2024 at 10am  

Clarifying questions published: 22 January    

Competition closes: 1 February at 5pm  

Successful applicants notified: 16 February  

Pitch day in Milton Keynes: 22 February 

Start of project: March 

How to apply

Please register to receive full details of the challenge, how to respond and for the terms and conditions of the challenge and entry.

Applications close: 1 February 2024 

Apply now

Further information 

His Majesty’s Government Communications Centre (HMGCC) works with the national security community, UK Government, academia, private sector partners and international allies to bring engineering ingenuity to the national security mission, creating tools and technologies that help to protect the nation. 

HMGCC Co-Creation is a partnership between HMGCC and DSTL (Defence Science and Technology Laboratory), created to deliver a new, bold and innovative way of working with the wider UK science and technology community. It brings together the best in class across industry, academia, and Government, to work collaboratively on national security engineering challenges and accelerate innovation.