This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition funded by the Department for Transport (DfT). The aim of the competition is to deliver high maturity demonstrations of innovations to the UK railways.

This competition is part of a larger ‘first of a kind’ demonstrator initiative, on behalf of DfT. The initiative aims to accelerate innovation in the UK rail sector and enable technologies to be readily and efficiently integrated into the railway system. This competition is the sixth in the first of a kind portfolio.

This first of a kind competition has three themes:

  • Theme 1 – Low emissions and a greener railway (this theme)
    This is phase 1 of a potential 2 phase competition. The decision to proceed with phase 2 will depend on the outcomes from phase 1 and assessment of a separate application into a subsequent phase 2 competition. Only the successful applicants from phase 1 will be invited to apply to take part in phase 2.
  • Theme 2 – Rail Freight
  • Theme 3 – Cost efficiency and performance priorities for a reliable railway

Your phase 1 project can start by 1 October 2022 and must end by 31 December 2022; it can last up to 3 months.

Your potential phase 2 projects can start by 1 March 2023 and must end by 31 October 2024, with a duration of up to 20 months.

Specific focuses for theme 1

You must address reduced carbon emissions and the impact of the railway on the environment. Your project can focus on one or more of the following:

  • technology solutions to substantially reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) when diesel passenger trains are idling
  • passenger trains that can be powered by the AC overhead electrification and charge a battery from the overhead wire, to then run in battery only mode on unelectrified section of a route
  • battery or hydrogen powered freight trains

Eligibility

An organisation of any size can lead a project, working alone or with others. Applicants are welcome from all sectors.

Your project must involve:

  • an owner of railway assets (for example stations, rolling stock or infrastructure)
  • an experienced railway organisation
  • a rail organisation that has the potential to become a customer

These criteria can be met by a single organisation or up to three separate organisations.

You must also:

  • include a potential integration partner
  • have a letter of support signed by a senior individual, from a potential railway customer organisation

Proposals into this competition must already be high maturity at Rail Industry Readiness level 5 or above. You must evidence this as part of your application.

We welcome projects that include either an:

  • innovative start-up supply company that is already delivering in another sector
  • organisation with railway expertise, such as train operating companies, a freight operator, rolling stock manufacturers or operators and infrastructure owners

If you are awarded a contract, you will be required to exhibit your project at the 2023 Innovate UK annual rail exhibition. We will provide the space and advise you of any technology you need to organise. You will also be able to lease equipment from the venue through us. The date and location of the event will be announced on the KTN website in December 2022. This is anticipated to be a live event.

The phase 1 project R&D contracts will be up to £60,000 inclusive of VAT. We expect to fund up to 7 projects.

Phase 2 involves up to 3 contracts being awarded to organisations chosen from the successful phase 1 applicants. Up to £740,000 inclusive of VAT will be allocated for each contract, to develop a prototype and undertake field testing for up to 20 months.

An online briefing event will be held on Thursday 5th May from 10am-3pm: click here to register to attend.