Planning rail capacity through automated infrastructure design

Key Features

UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £300,000 for projects that develop and demonstrate tools to automatically plan rail infrastructure.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £300,000

Opens: 22nd Oct 2018

Closes: 19th Dec 2018

! This scheme is now closed


Network Rail will work with Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, to invest up to £300,000. This will support the development and demonstration of new capability in automated design. This aligns with the objectives of Network Rail’s Whole Systems Modelling team, part of the Systems Operator, which:

  • plans future strategic infrastructure investment
  • allocates capacity on the national rail network


This competition aims to encourage the development of products and services that enable the rapid automatic design of rail infrastructure. This will allow the UK to model the railway’s capacity for the future and stimulate further development of automated design tools.

Automatic design is important to Network Rail to:

1. Accelerate the infrastructure design process, while:

  • taking into account the complex interacting factors that affect design effectiveness
  • allowing the exploration of more suitable options

2. Quickly and easily create designs to input into simulations of long term railway performance, which will lead to better informed decisions about future capacity.

Your solution must produce optimal designs that could be used as candidates for implementation. It must take into account:

  • representative data (such as topography, infrastructure components and layout, or surrounding features)
  • control factors or weightings (to set priorities in the output for maintenance costs, resilience, journey times, and so on)
  • constraints (such as land availability)
  • predicted demand

Your proposal must:

  • show good use of existing technologies and capabilities in automated or generative design.
  • show you clearly understand the factors that affect railway infrastructure design.
  • be detailed enough for modelling new infrastructure and services in Railsys and comparable industry standard simulation tools.
  • output geographical referencing using the WGS84 and ETRS89 co-ordinate systems.

Your solution must automate the design of one or more of:

  1. Track layout
  2. Overhead line electrification
  3. Traction power supply system
  4. Signalling systems
  5. Other railway infrastructure


To be eligible for funding you must:

  • be a UK based business, charity, public sector organisation or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • carry out your project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • propose a project that meets our definition of industrial research or experimental development

Academic organisations are not eligible for funding.

To lead a project you must be a:

  • UK based business of any size
  • charity
  • public sector organisation
  • or research and technology organisation (RTO)

Applications are welcome both from within and outside the rail sector, however we encourage your consortium to work in partnership with organisations that have rail-sector expertise.

Funding Costs

Your total project costs must be between £50,000 and £200,000. Projects with total costs of:

  • under £100,000 can be single or collaborative
  • £100,000 or more must be collaborative

Projects must start by 30 April 2019 and end by 31 March 2020. Projects can last between 6 months and one year.

For industrial research projects, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 70% if you are a micro or small business
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 50% if you are a large business

For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 45% if you are a micro or small business
  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 25% if you are a large business


Innovate UK will not fund applications that:

  • do not build on relevant existing technologies and capabilities
  • propose solutions that do not form part of an integrated modelling space where proprietary models exchange data and instructions through a logical data model
  • have low technological maturity as we are eager to fund solutions that make use of the best available technology in this area, targeting delivery to proof of concept through this project
  • cannot be exploited by the rail industry or do not have potential benefits for the rail industry