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UK government announces transport innovation fund

UK government announces transport innovation fund

The UK government has committed £1.85 million to a fund earmarked for innovative transport projects across the country. Investments will be made through the Transport Research and Innovation Grants (TRIG) programme, a scheme intended to support early stage research by startups and academics.

The government is set to issue an ‘open call’ for applicants with ongoing transport projects, but will also focus on five specific funding areas. These are maritime decarbonisation, the future of freight, local transport decarbonisation, transport resilience to severe weather and flooding, and improving the rail passenger experience.

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced this latest TRIG programme, which could support up to 60 winning projects, heralding the potential it holds to boost development in the sector and improve UK transportation at the same time.

“AI rescue drones, magnetic train tech, and sensors to help visually impaired people are just some of the cutting-edge transport projects this programme has already funded. We’re determined to support path-breaking R&D across the UK. This new round of funding is designed to find the next top tech projects that will improve transport for millions across the UK. By aiming at emerging start-ups and small businesses we can ensure we build a tech base for the future,” said Transport and Decarbonisation Minister Jesse Norman.

The TRIG programme is run in cooperation with Connected Places Catapult, and is now on its sixteenth round of funding. It’s hoped that alongside startup projects supported through the fund, academics will be able to put research into practice as the basis for new companies, improving the potential for jobs and growth in the sector.

More than £10 million in grants have been issued to projects since it started in 2014. Past winners include Vivacity, whose project involving the use of artificial intelligence (AI) cameras to gather and use real-time transport data to improve traffic lights and smart motorways has since been implemented by Milton Keynes, Oxford, and Salford local authorities.

Another former winner is Snowdonia Aerospace, which was awarded funding to test a drone intended for emergency service use, which could act as both a 4G and a 5G hotspot in areas with insufficient network coverage.

TRIG is one of a number of government-supported funds aimed at accelerating innovation and growth in the tech sector. In October, the UK Space Agency announced a £15 million fund for satellite tech investment, and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is running a £10 million fund for disruptive telecoms tech such as Open RAN.

“The UK’s innovation ecosystem is adept at developing solutions to complex problems. Government-backed projects like TRIG feed the early stages of the UK transport innovation pipeline and help us identify and nurture viable solutions to some of our biggest challenges,” added Nicola Yates OBE, CEO at Connected Places Catapult.

Those seeking to apply for the funding can do so now, and applications close on 16 January 2023. Winners are expected to be announced in April 2023, with funding awarded after this date.

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