Businesses can apply for a share of £6 million to support new digital technologies that improve customer experiences and improve operations on the railways.

In a competition, Innovate UK (formerly the Technology Strategy Board) and the FutureRailway programme are to invest up to £6 million to support business innovation in digital technologies that improve the rail experience in both the UK and international rail markets.

Railway
Britains' railways need more than online ticket sle apps. Image:iStock/Zenie

The rail industry’s Rail Technical Strategy, a 30-year vision of technology requirements, prioritises improvements in the use of data and information and their translation into systems and services that cut cost, improve operations and benefit customers.

“Digital technology offers clear business opportunities across a global rail market worth around £150 billion a year,” said Innovate UK, a government backed agency. “We expect projects to last between one and three years and to range in size from total costs of £250,000 to £2 million,” Innovate UK said.

Projects in the technology competition should demonstrate how they respond to some of the main challenges facing the rail industry, including increasing capacity, opportunity and ease of use for freight customers; integrating other modes of transport into rail; improving passenger comfort and facilities; and the provision of real-time information. Other challenges that need to be addressed include improving cycling access and facilities; transforming station design; and providing a “universal customer database”.

The competition opens on 9 March, with a deadline for entries on 15 April. There will be briefing and networking events for potential applicants in Coventry and London ahead of the deadline for entries.