Innovate UK funds smart mobility and ticketing technology | G7 series

Posted on: 28/05/2021

Innovate UK has invested in an advanced smart mobility and ticketing technology to simplify journeys and drive a greener, smarter economy.

With support from Innovate UK EDGE, Unicard, a smart transport and ticketing innovator has raised £175,000 in Innovate UK funding to develop its inventory management technology for dockless bikes and e-scooters. The company is growing rapidly with a £1.7m contract with Transport Scotland.

Founded in 2003, Unicard is a well-respected provider of smart ticketing solutions to the UK’s public transport sector, processing over half a billion smart transactions a year.

The Dorset-based smart transport and ticketing company provides technology that supports 60% of all UK Local Authorities, including Swift; which is the second largest mass-transit scheme in the UK after London’s Oyster Card. Swift operates across Transport for the West Midlands, and is regularly used by over 200,000 people undertaking more than 42m journeys per year.

Local Authorities across the UK rely on Unicard’s back-office solutions to issue tickets and concessionary passes, manage customer data and process payments.

“We’re here to improve access to public transport, making it more seamless and affordable,” says Sean Dickinson, CEO, Unicard. “In doing so, we’re also improving access to jobs, enhancing local economic development and encouraging people to reduce their reliance on cars, paving the way for greener and safer travel.”

Unicard plans to expand itscurrent work further into the national rail network, but while its national ambitions are important, its key focus remains on being dedicated to providing industry-leading secure ticketing, identity, payments and data management for the UK’s Local Authorities and commercial transport operators.

“Local Authorities are our heritage, our heartland, and it’s where we can make the most significant societal impacts in terms of providing concessions and improving access for elderly and disabled people.”

Funding support from Innovate UK EDGE

“We work in a hugely exciting sector; there’s so much change and so many opportunities that we would like to take advantage of,” says Sean. “But like all SMEs, investment decisions can be financially constrained, and that’s where we turned to Innovate UK EDGE for support.”

Innovate UK EDGE Access to Funding and Finance Manager, Dr Ben Masheder, recommended Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund and supported Unicard’s application.

“Grant funding is a very complex environment and Ben was simply brilliant at helping us deliver our message, whilst highlighting the wider importance of our proposal to be able to meet the criteria.”

Unicard secured £175,000 to accelerate the development of its Smart Mobility real time data platform that monitors micro-mobility services – i.e., dock-less bikes, e-scooters, and electric vehicle rentals – to support transport policy and inventory management.

“We’re an industry that generates a lot of data, but as a sector, we don’t necessarily maximise the insights. Our innovation will highlight how transport assets are being used, measuring the positive impact of alternative modes, and helping to prevent situations like we’re seeing in some European cities, where e-scooters are now referred to as ‘street furniture’.”

“The funding support from Innovate UK EDGE has made a massive difference to us. Ben and the wider team have been extremely responsive – they are genuinely passionate about helping businesses to succeed.”

Unicard’s growth trajectory in advanced smart mobility

Despite the unprecedented disruption to transport over the past 12 months, Unicard has increased its headcount by 26% during the pandemic, reaching 80 full time employees. The company has achieved 20-30% compound growth over the past four years and has recently agreed a four-year contract with Transport Scotland valued at ?1.7m, with the option of a further two years valued at £2.3m.

Through its HOPS Suite technology, Unicard will enable Transport Scotland to monitor live data, track concessionary fares, and securely manage smart transactions. The system will also support the Scottish Government’s plans to provide 1.4 million elderly and disabled people with free bus transport and travel concessions for young people.

“While we have major growth aspirations, we want to grow in the right way, maintaining our heritage, our customer-centricity, our support for local providers, and our reputation as the nice people to deal with,” says Sean.

Innovate UK EDGE will continue to provide game-changing growth support, helping Unicard to expand into new cities, new sectors and new markets.

The funding support from Innovate UK EDGE has made a massive difference to us. Ben and the wider team have been extremely responsive – they are genuinely passionate about helping businesses to succeed.

– Sean Dickinson, CEO, Unicard

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