Britain has announced winners of rail innovation competition

Marketa Horpeniakova, Published on 17/11/2022
Britain has announced winners of rail innovation competition
@Gaetano Polizzi on Unsplash

Cleaner, greener, and self-charging trains to revolutionize British rail travel.


The best innovators and inventors have been awarded funding to realize their projects as part of the First of a Kind 2022 competition. The winners will receive funding to develop new technologies that will improve rail freight services and reduce carbon emissions from trains.

FOAK has been funded by Department for Transport and managed by Innovate UK, delivered in partnership with Innovate UK KTN, since 2017/18 to help overcome barriers that can make it difficult for new entrants to bring novel technologies to the rail market. Funding is provided through competitions, with successful bidders partnering with rail industry bodies to develop and test products that can then be offered for sale. FOAK 2022 saw 24 innovators receive a share of more than £5 million with grants of up to £400,000 each. 

“The innovations funded through this competition will help to deliver a greener, lower-emissions railway carrying increasingly higher proportions of the UK’s freight,” said Mike Biddle, Executive Director for Net Zero at Innovate UK.

Several of the supported projects are directly related to rail freight transport. The project "Freight Skate - self-powered freight bogie and platform" received maximum funding. The project is a collaboration between LB Foster, GB Freight, and Eversholt Rail Group (ERG), who are working on the design and manufacture of a self-powered semi-autonomous bogie that will improve operational flexibility. The successful delivery of this project is expected to deliver time savings improvements, reduce noise pollution and improve air quality at the terminal and in the wider community.

Another project - Levelling up Freight - delivers an innovative freight planning solution (PathPlanner) that makes the use of rail for freight as accessible and easy to use as the road network. PathPlanner is specifically designed to overcome the current operational challenges and blockers that make switching to rail prohibitive.

The funding received also Varamis who, working closely with DHL and Fedex, is revolutionizing parcel delivery in the UK by repurposing former passenger carriages and putting rail right at the heart of the online shopping boom to create high-speed, non-letter delivery services.

Echion Technologies, another successful applicant, is developing batteries that will be charged from overhead wires and use that charge to "leapfrog" over non-electrified sections of track, effectively creating the first self-charging trains.

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