SBRI FOAK 2: demonstrating tomorrow’s stations and a greener railway

Key Features

Businesses can apply for a share of £3.5 million, including VAT, to develop demonstrators for decarbonisation of the railway and customer experience in stations.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £3.5 million

Opens: 8th Oct 2018

Closes: 28th Nov 2018

! This scheme is now closed


This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition and is open to organisations of all sizes. The aim of the competition is to demonstrate innovations to stakeholders and railway customers in a representative railway environment.

This competition has 2 themes to choose from:

  1. Customer experience in stations.
  2. Decarbonisation of the railway.

Full details of what is in scope for both themes are below.


You must prove you have a well-developed innovation with a high technology readiness level (TRL) that delivers the expected outcomes when integrated in complex real-world railway applications.

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

  • within a railway station
  • in rolling stock
  • on railway infrastructure

Innovate UK may also consider demonstrators in settings highly representative of these environments.

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:

  • 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 4Cs:
  1. Costs: reducing by 50% or more.
  2. Capacity: doubling.
  3. Carbon: halving emissions.
  4. Customers: improving their experience.

You must 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
  • the 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

Theme 1: decarbonisation of the railway

This is a recognised priority across the network, including innovation in stations, rolling stock and infrastructure. Priorities in this theme include:

  • transferring ideas from other sectors, such as automotive or aerospace
  • stations with a zero carbon footprint
  • improvements in air quality in stations and throughout the surrounding area
  • innovative powertrain and energy storage systems for rolling stock
  • alternatives to fossil fuels based on advances in automotive, to reduce noise and pollution with more self-powered rail vehicles
  • battery or dual power systems, such as on-board energy storage or hybrid powertrains with greater operational flexibility and potentially cheaper electrification schemes
  • examining the energy requirements of the whole system and optimising efficiency with a more flexible and integrated energy system, including constructing new railways
  • lightweight, energy-efficient rolling stock
  • a more holistic approach to energy use, making better use of energy generation and storage technologies to reduce operational costs and carbon footprints
  • other technologies that deliver significant benefits in terms of decarbonisation to the railway station environment


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 consortium:

  • must include a potential integration partner
  • must involve a railway asset owner (stations, rolling stock, infrastructure), an experienced rail organisation and a rail organisation that has the potential to become a customer (these can all be the same organisation)
  • will ideally include an innovative start-up supply company that is already delivering in another sector
  • will ideally include an organisation with rail expertise, such as a train operating company, rolling stock manufacturer, or operator and infrastructure owner

Partners may only be involved on a subcontract basis.

Funding Costs

This is a single-phase competition with a total allocation of up to £3.5 million, including VAT. Projects will be 100% funded.

Innovate UK expect to fund projects with total costs between £250,000 and £350,000, including VAT.

Projects must plan to start by 1 March 2019 and can last up to 9 months. Projects longer than 9 months will not be supported.

Innovate UK expect to split the funding evenly between the 2 themes, but they reserve the right to manage the portfolio for the best use of this public funding.


Innovate UK will not fund applications 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 vehicle, a railway station, or on the infrastructure that enhances the customer experience or delivers carbon reductions
  • do not feature a demonstration phase, offering the customer a chance to use the innovation and give feedback

For this competition, your application should focus on prototyping and field-testing your product or service in a representative railway environment. R&D does not include:

  • commercial development activities such as quantity production
  • supply to establish commercial viability or to recover R&D costs
  • integration, customisation or incremental adaptations and improvements to existing products or processes