Have Your Say About Future Funding

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First of a Kind 3  (FOAK 3) via Innovate UK

This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition and is open to organisations of all sizes.

The aim of this competition is to demonstrate how proven technologies can be integrated into a railway environment for the first time (‘first of a kind’ demonstrations). It aims to encourage innovation in the industry and help innovative suppliers take the final step to market readiness.


This competition has 4 themes to choose from:

  1. Infrastructure resilience
  2. Operational resilience
  3. Freight
  4. Noise and environment

Your application must demonstrate potential benefits to passengers and customers, including:

  • why customers would buy the product
  • how the funding will help companies in the consortium grow and result in broader economic benefits
  • how you will obtain a clear route to market

Your project must create a highly interactive and innovative demonstrator. This should be in an environment where railway customers and industry representatives can witness the product as a compelling business proposition, for instance:

  • within a railway station
  • in rolling stock
  • on railway infrastructure
  • in the environment close to the railway

Your project must:

  • gather evidence about integration challenges and explain how you will de-risk the integration
  • demonstrate to railway stakeholders and customers the commercial benefits of the solution
  • make taking up technologies less risky and faster
  • be pre-commercial
  • collect customer and performance feedback
  • provide a business case for using the solution in a commercial environment
  • consider the priorities of current and future franchises
  • address elements of the 4 Cs:
  1. Costs: reducing by 50% or more.
  2. Capacity: doubling.
  3. Carbon: halving emissions.
  4. Customers: improving their experience.
  • provide relevant proofs, so your innovation can attract customers, get insurance, supply warranties and attract financing

The relevant proofs are:

  • the technology works as designed when integrated into larger complex systems and delivers the expected outcomes
  • the technology is accepted by and delivers benefits for customers and the broader rail industry
  • there is revenue potential for the innovation within a real commercial context
  • the financing and business models can be delivered within a complex programme and consortium structure


To lead a project you:

  • can be an organisation of any size
  • must carry out your project work in the UK

Applicants are welcome from all sectors. Your project:

  • must involve an owner of railway assets (such as stations, rolling stock or infrastructure), an experienced railway organisation and a rail organisation that has the potential to become a customer (this can be the same organisation or 3 separate organisations)
  • must include a potential integration partner
  • will ideally include an innovative start-up supply company that is already delivering in another sector
  • will ideally include an organisation with railway expertise, such as train operating companies, a freight operator, rolling stock manufacturers or operators and infrastructure owners
  • will ideally have a letter of support from a potential customer organisation

Funding Costs

This is a single-phase competition with a total allocation of up to £5.5 million, including VAT. Projects will be 100% funded. The funding is provided by the Department for Transport (DfT) and the competition will be managed by Innovate UK.

It is expected that this competition will fund up to 16 projects, split evenly between the 4 themes.

Total eligible project costs are between £250,000 and £350,000 + VAT.

Projects must plan to start by 1 July 2019 and can last no more than 9 months. All work must be completed by 31 March 2020.

Applications must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively for research and development (R&D) services. For this competition, your application should focus on prototyping and field-testing your product or service in a representative railway environment.


Projects will not be funded, that:

  • are not likely to be successfully exploited by the rail industry to deliver benefits to rail or light-rail organisations and their customers
  • are not within a year of being ready for market
  • do not create a significant change in the level of innovation available in the rail industry
  • are not high TRL or do not have low technical risk
  • have collaborations that cannot effectively deliver a demonstration within a railway environment
  • do not deliver an immersive innovative demonstrator in a railway context
  • do not feature a demonstration phase, offering the customer a chance to use the innovation and give feedback

For full details click here


The links below provide other information for you to be aware of relating to recent / current funding opportunities:

Intelligent power solutions to decarbonise rail: two new competitions to be launched

SBRI first of a kind round 2: demonstrating tomorrow’s stations and a greener railway

Planning rail capacity through automated infrastructure design

RSSB: Intelligent power networks to decarbonise rail

RSSB: Data Sandbox+

Next Round of Innovate UK Smart Grants