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Rail is essential to the economic, social and environmental health and growth of the UK, supporting essential travel, commuters, social and leisure travel, healthcare journeys and travel for education purposes. The rail network is the UK’s travel backbone, connecting rural communities to urban areas and facilitating opportunities for all.

The UK rail industry contributes £36bn to the UK economy annually, directly employing 115,000 people and supporting another 250,000 through its supply chain. There were 1,718 billion journeys on the National Rail network in 2016, making it the fifth most used in the world.

As the sector continues to grow, passenger satisfaction, safety, capacity, efficiency, sustainability, digitisation and inclusion are crucial factors to ensuring a resilient rail network.

KTN’s rail team works with major stakeholders within rail to identify key industry challenges, then uses our wider network to connect solution holders (including SMEs, academics and other businesses) to industry to address these needs. We also provide support through events, guidance on grant applications and other networking opportunities.

Rail and Covid-19

Covid-19 has had a major impact on the UK and around the world. Within rail, this has created a number of challenges, and has significantly impacted the industry. UK companies have risen to meet these challenges, providing innovative products and services to tackle a range of needs.  KTN has worked with Innovate UK to promote some examples of how UK innovators can contribute to the rebuilding and growth of rail in UK and around the world.  You can download the PDF here.

The wider transport team works to connect innovations across transport modes, highlighting new opportunities, and projecting your insights in a crowded marketplace.

First of a Kind: Rail Innovation Directory

First of a Kind (FOAK) is funded through the SBRI process to develop demonstrators of innovative solutions to rail challenges. Find out more about SBRI here.


This booklet is a showcase of projects funded through the First of a Kind and Accelerating Innovation in Rail competitions from 2017-2020, and aims to highlight innovative technologies which have been successfully demonstrated, for potential customers within the UK rail sector.

Click here to download the directory.

First of a Kind: video case studies

Focusing on ‘Passenger Experience’, ‘Safety and Performance’ and ‘Sustainability’ these videos are a spotlight on some of the companies funded by the SBRI First of a Kind rail innovation competitions.

Our Rail Expert

Daisy Chapman-Chamberlain

Read full profile

Funding Opportunities

SBRI: FOAK 2022 Low emissions and a greener railway

This competition aims to support innovative products to enter the rail market. In this strand, you must address reduced carbon emissions and the impact of the railway on the environment, by either improving train batteries, introducing hydrogen trains, or reducing harmful emissions from diesel trains.

Opens: 20/04/2022 Closes: 08/06/2022

Explore Further

SBRI: FOAK 2022 Rail Freight

This competition aims to support innovative products to enter the rail market. In this strand, DFT are looking for innovations focused on rail freight.

Opens: 20/04/2022 Closes: 08/06/2022

Explore Further

SBRI: FOAK 2022 cost efficiency and performance priorities for a reliable railway

This competition aims to support innovative products to enter the rail market. In this strand, you must address industry cost efficiency and network performance priorities to support a reliable railway for customers.

Opens: 20/04/2022 Closes: 08/06/2022

Explore Further

Canada-UK Net Zero Value Chains - Transportation

UK registered businesses and Canadian SMEs can apply to collaborate on joint R&D projects that enable the transition to net zero for the automotive, rail, or maritime sectors.

Opens: 04/04/2022 Closes: 29/06/2022

Explore Further
Recorded: 5th May

SBRI Competition Rail Demonstrations: First of a Kind 2022

Organisations can apply for a share of up to £7 million inclusive of VAT, to develop demonstrators that offer lower emissions and a greener railway, enable innovations in rail freight, and enable cost efficiencies and performance priorities for a reliable railway.

Watch Now



Innovation Landscape in UK Rail: read the report

UK rail is in a time of enormous upheaval. This presents a great opportunity as well as a challenge: our report aims to provide you with a complete overview of the UK’s rail innovation landscape.

Read more


Thinking outside the signal box

Rail innovators are striving to get the industry back on track after the shock of the pandemic.

Read more