SBRI: FOAK 2022 Rail Freight

This competition aims to support innovative products to enter the rail market. In this strand, DFT are looking for innovations focused on rail freight.

Opportunity Details


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Your project can have total costs between £150,000 and £400,000, inclusive of VAT, for 12 months.



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This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition funded by the Department for Transport (DfT). The aim of the competition is to deliver high maturity demonstrations of innovations to the UK railways.

This competition is part of a larger ‘first of a kind’ demonstrator initiative, on behalf of DfT. The initiative aims to accelerate innovation in the UK rail sector and enable technologies to be readily and efficiently integrated into the railway system. This competition is the sixth in the first of a kind portfolio.

This first of a kind competition has three themes:

  • Theme 1 – Low emissions and a greener railway
  • Theme 2 – Rail Freight (this theme)
  • Theme 3 – Cost efficiency and performance priorities for a reliable railway

Your project can start by 1 October 2022, must end by 30 September 2023, and can last up to 12 months.


For theme 2, your project must focus on one or more of the following:

  • innovation to support modal shift to rail for freight services
  • innovation to deliver rail freight growth, increase efficiency and meet future customer needs
  • improved timetabling and scheduling, to allow a wider variety of freight to be shipped, including keeping freight running during engineering work.
  • improved routing and tracking capabilities, for example to ensure that the railway can integrate fully with intermodal freight and services to develop new markets for light packed, high value goods
  • innovation which supports rail freight resilience
  • flexible interiors for light freight
  • innovation to reduce the noise impact of freight trains
  • innovation to decarbonise rail freight and to improve air quality
  • freight handling automation
  • multi-functional rolling stock
  • innovation to make electrification compatible with freight depots
  • innovation to increase average speed and to support high-speed rail freight services to improve competitiveness with other modes
  • delivery of freight by rail into congested city centres.
  • next generation logistics
  • automated modal interchanges, allowing freight to be transferred quickly and efficiently for onward transit
  • innovation to support freight operations during railway construction, such as spoil disposal
  • better wagon design and maintenance
  • improved operation through new freight hubs
  • self-assembling consists
  • repurposing of redundant passenger and freight rolling stock
  • freight solutions which work in tandem with passenger services
  • innovation that might support future autonomous freight trains
  • lower cost of whole life operation for rail freight
  • innovation to make rail freight more competitive compared to other transport modes and to reduce freight costs
  • passenger luggage solutions
  • innovation in freight diversionary activities
  • last mile interface for freight delivery
  • reduction of end-to-end freight journey times


To lead a project, you can be an organisation of any size, and work alone or with others. Applicants are welcome from all sectors.

Your project must involve:

  • an owner of railway assets (for example stations, rolling stock or infrastructure)
  • an experienced railway organisation
  • a rail organisation that has the potential to become a customer

These criteria can be met by a single organisation or up to three separate organisations.

You must also:

  • include a potential integration partner
  • have a letter of support signed by a senior individual, from a potential railway customer organisation

Proposals into this competition must already be high maturity at Rail Industry Readiness level 5 or above. You must evidence this as part of your application.

We welcome projects that include either an:

  • innovative start-up supply company that is already delivering in another sector
  • organisation with railway expertise, such as train operating companies, a freight operator, rolling stock manufacturers or operators and infrastructure owners

An online briefing event will be held on Thursday 5th May from 10am-3pm: click here to register to attend.


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