SBRI: Innovate at HS2 2020, phase 1

Key Features

Organisations can apply for a share of £300,000, inclusive of VAT, to support HS2 through innovation in construction and design.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £300,000

Opens: 21st Oct 2020

Closes: 16th Dec 2020

! This scheme is now closed


This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition funded by High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd. The aim of the competition is to deliver innovation that will drive project efficiencies and process optimisations during the design and construction phase of High Speed 2.

This is phase 1 of a potential 2-phase competition. A decision to proceed with phase 2 will depend on the outcomes from phase 1. Only successful applicants from phase 1 will be invited to apply to take part in phase 2. This will be managed by HS2. To find out more about phase 2, see ‘Supporting information’.


The aim of this competition is to demonstrate the desirability, feasibility and viability of innovations. The innovations must provide efficiency, or step change, to traditional processes or ways of working on major infrastructure projects, such as HS2.

In phase 1 you must demonstrate:

  • the desirability and feasibility of your solution by using a proof of concept relatable to the HS2 project
  • the viability of your solution by presenting a qualified supporting business case and demonstrating the breadth of impact your solution can deliver

You must deliver to HS2 your phase 1 report outlining the results of your study. HS2 may share this with other organisations engaged in the HS2 programme

You must demonstrate a credible and practical route to market, so your application must include a plan to commercialise your results.

You will be asked to select the primary theme as part of your application in ‘project details’. Your project must focus on one or more of these themes:

Reduce manual operations

The construction industry has been slow to adopt digital capability, therefore there is tremendous opportunity across a wide string of processes and activities.

The competition wants to explore technology that can replace:

  • manual ways of working
  • activities that are historically labour intensive or inefficient

The competition seeks new innovation that can:

  • identify, reduce or remove paper-based activities
  • automate and optimise processes as efficiently as possible

Project interfaces

Major projects such as HS2 are complex. The competition seeks to improve the way HS2 can digitally interface between:

  • contracts
  • work packages
  • project schedules
  • project disciplines
  • stakeholders

Waste in construction

The construction industry contributes to a large percentage of waste generated in England. Poor site management can lead to materials being unused. This competition wants to explore technology solutions that can minimise material waste on HS2. This could be a result of:

  • storage
  • protection
  • multi handling
  • site control
  • overordering
  • lack of control
  • damage

Recruitment and onboarding

HS2 will need to recruit tens of thousands of people over the duration of the project. Due to the large number of sites on HS2, the workforce will undertake multiple inductions of a similar nature. This competition wants to research and develop solutions that can optimise:

  • the recruitment process
  • site inductions
  • onboarding of staff

Procurement Loss Prevention

HS2 wants to research and develop solutions that could identify:

  • inflated costs
  • payments that fall outside of scope of works
  • anomalies in wage rates
  • ways to validate itemising of materials for quantity and quality
  • any false representations


To lead a project, you can:

  • be an organisation of any size
  • work alone or with other organisations as subcontractors

Contracts will be awarded only to a single legal entity. However, if you can justify subcontracting components of the work, you can employ specialist consultants or advisers. This work will still be the responsibility of the main contractor.

Projects are expected to:

  • start by 1 March 2021
  • end by 31 May 2021
  • last up to 3 months

Funding Costs

A total of up to £300,000, inclusive of VAT, is allocated to phase 1.

Phase 1 feasibility study R&D contracts will be up to £30,000 inclusive of VAT, for each project for up to 3 months. It is expected to fund up to 10 projects.

The total funding available for the competition can change. The funders have the right to:

  • adjust the provisional funding allocations between the phases
  • apply a portfolio approach

Your application must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively to R&D services, including solution exploration and design. R&D can also include prototyping and field-testing the product or service. This lets you incorporate the results of your exploration and design and demonstrate that you can produce in quantity to acceptable quality standards.

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


This competition will not fund projects that:

  • are not likely to be successfully exploited by the rail industry to deliver benefits to rail infrastructure clients or contractors
  • do not create a significant change in the level of innovation available in the rail industry
  • do not meet the needs of the competition challenges
  • do not demonstrate a significant return on investment on the end solution
  • have a lead time for feasible realisation greater than 3 years
  • develop solutions already commercially available