Smiths Detection announces new strategic partnership with the University of Exeter

A collaborative agreement that will use virtual and immersive technology to revolutionise training in the aviation security screening sector

SD Uoe

Smiths Detection, a global leader in threat detection and security screening technology, today announces a new strategic partnership with the University of Exeter that will enhance its core training offering for clients across the aviation sector and wider security screening market.  

Over an initial four-year period, Smiths Detection will work closely with the university’s Virtual Immersive Training And Learning (VITAL) research group to better understand the needs of our customers' staff, particularly screeners tasked with identifying threats and prohibited items in X-ray images. The University of Exeter’s VITAL research group explores virtual and immersive technology for training people to perform complex or high-risk tasks, as well as tackle fundamental research questions relating to sensorimotor control and perceptual-cognitive expertise. 

The focus of the work will primarily be on researching and understanding bespoke ‘human-focused’ solutions that improve the performance of screeners, particularly when identifying novel and emerging threats. As part of their research, the VITAL research group will utilise its research capability and techniques, including eye tracking, immersive technology, experimentation, evidence synthesis, and data science, to test and analyse the new training solutions, as well as tackle fundamental research questions about the use of threat detection equipment and security operator training. The initial research will enable us to better understand the visual search patterns of experienced aviation X-ray screeners, particularly with the incorporation of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The findings will inform the development of training for novice screeners. The research group will also test and evaluate novice screener evaluation tools that our customers can employ during the recruitment process enabling them to recruit those with the greatest potential.  

As part of Smiths Detection’s ongoing employee and talent engagement initiatives, the partnership will also allow students to take up validated work experience opportunities during their degrees as well as joint secondment opportunities for Smiths Detection and University of Exeter employees. As this partnership strengthens, Smiths Detection will expand its research work with other departments at the university. 

Dr. Leanne Simpson, Smiths Detection Training and Documentation Director, said: “We are thrilled to be collaborating with an institution as renowned as the University of Exeter. This partnership is part of a larger programme of work that is revolutionising the way we deliver training, ensuring we remain people focused. Training is a crucial part of our offering at Smiths Detection as we strive to achieve our mission of making the world a safer place.” 

Chris Evans, Divisional Director of Exeter Innovation at the University of Exeter, said: “This partnership with Smiths Detection provides a great opportunity for exciting research in the field of human performance and training. Smiths Detection commits to high-quality research and share our values in terms of supporting the career development of our junior researchers. Hopefully, this is just the start of a broader programme of research that expands to new areas within the university and Smiths.” 



Smiths Detection, a division of Smiths Group, is a global leader in inspection and detection technologies for the air transport, ports and borders, armed forces and urban security markets. With more than 70 years of experience in the field, we offer the necessary solutions to protect society from the threats posed by explosives, prohibited weapons, contraband, toxic chemical agents and narcotics – helping to make the world a safer place. 

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VITAL, a research group situated at The University of Exter, led by Professors Sam Vine and Mark Wilson, explores the multi-faceted concepts relating to the use of Virtual and Immersive technology for training, learning, and therapy. These technologies are used to develop experimental paradigms that help us to explore research questions relating to sensorimotor control, perceptual cognitive expertise, skill learning, and mental well-being. Work is designed across a range of academic disciplines including cognitive psychology, pedagogy, human factors, user design, data science, and neuroscience. Alongside immersive technologies, VITAL adopts a number of other measurement tools including eye tracking, motion capture and psychometric tests. 

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