The UK Department for Transport is inviting bids for parts of a pot of £9.4m as it aims to encourage new technologies designed to improve rail services. The cash, which is being made available via Innovate UK, will be doled out in chunks of £100,000 to £400,000 and organisations of any size may apply.

According to Innovate UK, the competition is designed “to fund projects which demonstrate for the first time how proven technologies, such as automation or innovative uses of data, could be used on the railways. The projects must seek to demonstrate the technology as a compelling business idea in areas such as a railway station, rolling stock, rail infrastructure or an environment close to a railway.”

One of the four themed areas that Innovate UK is keen to see represented is customer experience. This includes improving access and accessibility, optimising journey times, improved information systems, on-board and station connectivity, passenger comfort and analysis of customer feedback.

BWCS is also keen to hear from innovative companies with new technology services aimed at improving connectivity or using existing connectivity for new services in the rail sector. The most promising ones will be invited to pitch at a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style, Short-Pitch-Section, at this year’s Train Communications Systems Conference.

Project teams for the Innovate UK scheme should include the owner of stations, rolling stock or infrastructure, an experienced railway organisation and an organisation that could become a customer.

The competition opens today (13 January 2020), and the closing date is at midday on 11 March.

Briefing events for potential applicants take place in London on 21 January 2020 and online on 21 January, Manchester on 23 January 2020, and Cardiff on 29 January 2020.

The other themes are:

  • Environmental sustainability, including low-carbon freight, energy generation and storage, low-emission self-powered vehicles, improved air quality, noise reduction and recyclable materials.
  • Railway operations, including improved dwell time at stations, optimised freight planning, better recovery from disruption, better information for frontline staff, real-time decision-making assistance, use of robotics to improve safety and security.
  • Optimised and cost-effective maintenance, including use of automation and robotics, automated cleaning, on-site maintenance of rolling stock, improved reporting of failures.

On-train WiFi services, trackside networks, the growing market for passenger WiFi and on-board entertainment will be the main subjects of BWCS’s WiFi on Trains Conference later this year. For information on speaking and sponsorship opportunities at the 2020 event, please fill out the enquiry form.

Please sign up at for the conference brochure.

The 2020 conference is sponsored by Icomera, Nomad Digital, Xentrans, Fluidmesh and RADWIN.

Also, for Wireless Suppliers who may be interested, BWCS has launched a brand new conference on the growing market for private wireless networks and 5G services at Ports – please see where the full programme is now available.