HS2 champions diversity in latest green tech drive

HS2 aims to be one of the most sustainable high-speed railways on Earth. This means it needs the best green tech. Is greater diversity the key to success?

Its latest round of recruitment onto its Innovation Accelerator programme suggests it is. Applications for the third cohort of the programme, which supports development of the UK’s SME tech sector, were judged blind and anonymously. The result: of the five successful SMEs, two have female SEOs or founders and three have CEOs or founders from minority ethnic groups.

“With the third cohort intake we focused on reaching a diverse range of businesses who we believe can bring fresh thinking and a new perspective to our mission of reducing HS2’s carbon footprint and improving the health and safety of our teams, as well as the security of our worksites,” said HS2 Ltd Innovation Manager, Rob Cairns.

Two shining examples of companies entering the programme – which is run in partnership with Connected Places Catapult and Bruntwood SciTech – with green credentials and ambitions are Looper and MachineMax.

Looper is developing technology that analyses and assesses the efficiency of designs, making sure that the least carbon-intensive plans and materials are used. HS2 Ltd wants to refine the technology during Phase One of the project, then use it across later phases.

“The HS2 Accelerator provides an ideal platform for us to further validate, fine-tune and embed our solution into the biggest infrastructure project in Europe,” said Looper’s founder, Yiqiang Zhao. “In the four months of the programme, we hope to secure a pilot project and seek fundraising.”

MachineMax has similar goals of cutting emissions through efficiency. Its technology monitors and improves the operation of worksite machinery by identifying when it’s working below capacity. This has the potential to reduce harmful emissions, speed up work and save money. Not only that, but the software is “agnostic”, meaning it can be used with any make of machinery.

“Our goal is to integrate MachineMax across the HS2 digital ecosystem and connect the entirety of the fleet to monitor and improve on-site emissions and efficiency,” said CEO Shweta Saxena.

HS2 is key in helping the UK economy become net zero carbon. It’s committed to a 50% reduction in the carbon impact of its construction, will deliver low carbon journeys and cut emissions from other forms of transport by reducing the need for them.

The five new companies, which entered the Accelerator in August 2021, and the people behind them show that reaching out to a wider range of talent will be essential in achieving these goals.