First of a Kind: demonstrating tomorrow’s trains today

Key Features

Organisations can apply for a share of up to £3.6 million for first of a kind technology to demonstrate ‘tomorrow’s trains today’.

Programme:     SBRI

Award:     Up to £350k

Opens: 30th Oct 2017

Closes: 29th Nov 2017

! This scheme is now closed

‘Demonstrating tomorrow’s trains today’ is the first in a series of first of it’s kind (FOAK)themes. In this theme the competition is looking for a range of technologies which create a highly interactive and innovative demonstration within a passenger railway vehicle or similar.

The specific objectives of the activity are a physical demonstration of innovation in the rail industry to prove:

  • the technology works as designed when integrated into larger complex systems and delivers the outcomes expected
  • the technology is accepted by, and delivers benefits for, customers and the broader rail industry
  • the revenue potential for the innovation within a real commercial context
  • the financing and business models for the innovation in a commercial project
  • the team’s delivery capability within a complex programme and consortium structure

Without these elements of proof it is difficult to sell innovation to customers, get insurance, supply warranties and attract financing.

Applications must demonstrate the potential benefits to passengers, explaining:

  • why customers would buy the product
  • how the funding will help companies in the consortium grow and result in broader economic benefits

At the end of each project, it is expected to see a full demonstration in an environment where railway customers and industry representatives will be able to witness the product as a compelling business proposition. Your project must include:

  • a demonstration phase
  • the collection of customer feedback
  • the definition of routes to market

Proposals must take into consideration user feedback of the demonstration, whether from rail industry employees or passengers.

Specific competition themes

Your application should propose a demonstration to deliver parts of the 5 broad topics below under the topic of ‘demonstrating tomorrow’s trains today’:

  1. More space on trains.  Click here for more information.
  2. Personalised customer experience. Click here for more information. 
  3. Efficient passenger flow through stations and onto trains.  Click here for more information. 
  4. More value from data.  Click here for more information. 
  5. An accessible network.  Click here for more information.


Applicants should clearly identify the challenges that will form the focus of their demonstration. They should aim to address a range of specific challenges faced by a rail industry client or ‘problem owner’, such as a train operating company, or a rolling stock owner or manufacturer. It could also potentially include Network Rail, London Underground, HS1, HS2, Crossrail or infrastructure providers, where challenges affect the customer experiences on-board trains.

Underpinning the vision for the future railway are the railway industry’s strategic goals, typically referred to as the 4Cs. Applicants to this competition must adhere to these principles. They are:

  • reducing costs by 50% or more
  • doubling capacity
  • halving carbon emissions
  • improving customer experience

All of this must be achieved while continuing to operate the railway safely.



To be eligible to lead a project you:

  • can be an organisation of any size
  • must carry out your project work in the UK
  • involve an experienced rail technology integrator and a rail asset owner or operator

Applicants are welcome both from within and outside the rail sector. Your consortium must work in partnership with organisations that have rail-sector expertise. There should be a potential customer within the consortium.


Funding and project details 

This is a single-stage competition focusing on the rail passenger vehicle. If all the funding allocated for this competition is not used, the theme ‘demonstrating tomorrow’s trains today’ may be kept open for future competitions. In that case, the proposals received will be assessed at approximately 2 month intervals until all the available funding has been allocated.

As part of your application you will need to provide a business case for using your solution in a commercial environment. All activities on this programme must be pre-commercial.

This competition is expected to fund 10 or more projects of up to £350,000 per competition

Projects will be 100% funded.