Rail

Rail is essential to the economic, social and environmental health and growth of the UK, supporting essential travel, commuters, social and leisure travel, healthcare journeys and travel for education purposes. The rail network is the UK’s travel backbone, connecting rural communities to urban areas and facilitating opportunities for all.

The UK rail industry contributes £36bn to the UK economy annually, directly employing 115,000 people and supporting another 250,000 through its supply chain. There were 1,718 billion journeys on the National Rail network in 2016, making it the fifth most used in the world.

As the sector continues to grow, passenger satisfaction, safety, capacity, efficiency, sustainability, digitisation and inclusion are crucial factors to ensuring a resilient rail network.

Innovate UK Business Connect’s rail team works with major stakeholders within rail to identify key industry challenges, then uses our wider network to connect solution holders (including SMEs, academics and other businesses) to industry to address these needs. We also provide support through events, guidance on grant applications and other networking opportunities.

Rail and Covid-19

Covid-19 has had a major impact on the UK and around the world. Within rail, this has created a number of challenges, and has significantly impacted the industry. UK companies have risen to meet these challenges, providing innovative products and services to tackle a range of needs. Find out how Innovate UK Business Connect has worked with Innovate UK to promote some examples of how UK innovators can contribute to the rebuilding and growth of rail in the UK and around the world.

The wider transport team works to connect innovations across transport modes, highlighting new opportunities, and projecting your insights in a crowded marketplace.

First of a Kind: Rail Innovation Directory

First of a Kind (FOAK) is funded through the SBRI process to develop demonstrators of innovative solutions to rail challenges. Find out more about SBRI here.

This booklet is a showcase of projects funded through the First of a Kind and Accelerating Innovation in Rail competitions from 2017-2020, and aims to highlight innovative technologies which have been successfully demonstrated, for potential customers within the UK rail sector.

Click here to download the directory.

First of a Kind: video case studies

Focusing on ‘Passenger Experience’, ‘Safety and Performance’ and ‘Sustainability’, these videos are a spotlight on some of the companies funded by the SBRI First of a Kind rail innovation competitions.

Related Opportunities

Space4Rail ESA open call

Opens: 01/11/2023 Closes: 31/12/2025

Funding to support the use of space-based assets to improve the European Rail system

More Information

Global Business Innovation Programme in South Korea - Green Smart Cities

Opens: 26/04/2024 Closes: 31/05/2024

Innovate UK is seeking companies with expertise in green smart city solutions to participate in a Global Business Innovation Programme in South Korea.

More Information

Clean Futures Accelerator

Opens: 01/05/2024 Closes: 09/06/2024

Calling all West Midlands innovators: receive up to £50K in challenges built around rail and automotive manufacturing and their related supply chains.

More Information

Freight Innovation Fund Accelerator Cohort 3

Opens: 01/05/2024 Closes: 09/06/2024

The Freight Innovation Fund Accelerator will support up to 12 SMEs to trial solutions in real-world environments to help solve challenges within the sector.

More Information

Design Exchange Partnerships: design the green transition round three

Opens: 02/05/2024 Closes: 12/09/2024

Apply for funding to develop design-led solutions around the theme the idea of designing for impact beyond humans.

More Information

Knowledge transfer partnerships (KTP): 2024 to 2025 Round 2

Opens: 15/04/2024 Closes: 26/06/2024

Up to £9m to fund innovation projects, with businesses or not-for-profits working alongside academic institutions, RTOs or Catapults.

More Information

Related Events and Recordings

Thu
13
Feb
2025

Rail Innovation Exhibition 2025

09.00 - 17.00 | London / Online

Register for this event
Thu
23
May
2024

Navigating the Funding Landscape in Micromobility

15.00 - 16.15 | Online

Recording coming soon
See all events

Related News

Department for Transport and High Speed Rail partner launch 2023 First of a Kind Rail Competition

11/05/2023

Department for Transport and High Speed Rail partner launch 2023 First of a Kind Rail Competition

The Department for Transport (DfT) and High Speed Rail partner are launching a new Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition to accelerate innovation in the UK rail sector and enable technologies to be readily and efficiently integrated into the railway system.

Read more
The 2023 Accessible and Inclusive Transport Report

10/03/2023

The 2023 Accessible and Inclusive Transport Report

Download the March 2023 Accessible and Inclusive Transport Report, published by Innovate UK KTN.

Read more
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