Chris Heaton-Harris
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Rail Minister, Chris Heaton-Harris, alongside Innovate UK, has launched a £9m competition to find new ideas to transform the railway network.

The First of a Kind Competition, or FOAK, focuses on developing technology and ideas to improve journeys for passengers and is now in its fifth round. This year, there is a particular focus on supporting ideas to make the network cleaner and more passenger-friendly.

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Past competitions have seen the Department for Transport and Innovate UK invest £25m in developing ideas including:

  • HydroFLEX – the testing of the first hydrogen train in the UK
  • Inspection drones to assess the safety of rail infrastructure
  • Concrete slabs that heat up to prevent icy platforms
  • Sound bending walls to minimise the noise of passing trains
  • Hydrogen based steam turbines to make rail freight emission and noise-free.

Organisations can bid for the funding until the 10th March 2021, and in 2020, 25 projects received a share of the £9m funding.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “This country pioneered the railway, and that spirit of innovation and ingenuity has never been more vital as we look to build back better from this pandemic.

“Our railways will underpin this country’s economic recovery and help realise our ambitions of a carbon neutral future. Through initiatives like the First of a Kind competition, we are investing today to build the railway of tomorrow.”

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Simon Edwards, Deputy Executive Chair & Chief Business Officer, Innovate UK, said: “A greener railway, easier for everyone, with a better experience for users is the aim of this competition. Delivered by Innovate UK, on behalf of the DfT and through the Small Business Research Initiative, it seeks the best and brightest ideas. Innovative companies all over the UK have proved their mettle in previous rounds of this scheme.

“Now we call again for even more fresh thinking to help deliver a better and greener railway that delivers for passengers and freight users.”

Dr Stuart Hillmansen, HydroFLEX Technical Lead, said: “It is fantastic to see our early fundamental research on the application of Fuel Cells in the railway sector being implemented, and delivering real benefits for today’s railway.”

James Eyton, Seatfrog Chief Financial Officer, said: “The DfT and InnovateUK are an incredible supporter of technology startups and scaleups in the UK providing funding to drive innovation which enhances the passenger experience.

“At Seatfrog, this funding has enabled us to fast track our product development of Train Swap delivering the fastest and easiest way to change your train in the UK”.

By MICHAEL HOLDEN

Source: Rail Advent

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