The UK Department for Transport and Innovate UK have revealed the 17 projects that will receive a share of £5.3m ($6.6m) in funding from its annual First of a Kind (FOAK) competition. 

The 2023 group of projects mark the seventh year of the funding competition and again cover a wide range of technological innovations for the country’s rail sector, including online journey planners, train-mounted cameras to aid maintenance checks, and kiosks to aid disabled passengers in rural areas. 

Rail Minister Huw Merriman said: “The projects announced today have the potential to make a huge difference to passengers, whether that’s being able to read important announcements or locate accessible facilities. 

“I’m proud of the support we’ve been able to show through this competition to drive towards a more innovative, inclusive and better value for money rail network.” 

Funding from the competition supports smaller projects through the development stage of their technologies including working together on real life trials on the UK railway network. 

This year’s FOAK winners saw a particular focus on accessibility with six of the 17 projects focussing on the issue including Gomedia’s personalised British Sign Language guide Luna, Televic UK’s real time transcription of audio announcements on trains, and Signapse’s solution that uses AI to “transform the deaf customer experience.” 

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This was highlighted by Mike Biddle, executive director for net zero at Innovate UK, who said the objective of the competition was to ensure a more equitable travel experience. 

He said: “The innovations receiving support through this competition are set to foster a more accessible, inclusive railway system within the UK and to develop demonstrators that offer innovations in customer experience, reliable and maintainable assets and optimised train operations.” 

The announcement of the 2023 winners follows on from the innovation agency’s Rail Innovation Exhibition held in Birmingham last month, where exhibitors told Railway Technology that despite the success of funding competitions like FOAK, more could be done to support smaller companies after they have received the funding and get through the development stage.