£7m fund to support innovative SMEs in freight sector unveiled

New fund will back SMEs with grants of up to £150k to scale ideas to make the freight sector cleaner and more efficient.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has today announced the Freight Innovation Fund, which is set to distribute £7m of funding over three years as part of its wider Future of Freight strategy. Delivered by Connected Places Catapult, the UK’s innovation accelerator for cities, transport and place leadership, the Freight Innovation Fund programme is focussed on accelerating the adoption of commercially ready solutions to address challenges in the UK’s freight sector.  

The Catapult will provide support to SMEs through two key initiatives: the Freight Innovation Fund Accelerator and Freight Innovation Cluster until 2024. 

Open for applications from today, the first round of the Accelerator is seeking SMEs with solutions to in the following areas: 

  • Data collection and sharing technologies or methods to reduce impact on the planet, efficiency and to drive better coordination.  
  • Better aggregation and disaggregation of large loads from rail to last-mile logistics and onward transport modes to allow goods to enter cities without aggravating emissions and traffic.  
  • Design new solutions for inter-modal hubs within ports for containers logistics and their allocation to other freight modes.  

SMEs selected for the Accelerator will have the opportunity to access up to £150,000 of funding to trial their solutions. 

The Freight Innovation Cluster is a new forum that aims to become the go-to community for organisations seeking to innovate in the freight industry. Members of the cluster, which will include SMEs on the Accelerator programme, will be informed of the latest opportunities for commercial and collaborative R&D work, and have the chance to discuss barriers and challenges and help find solutions within the freight sector. 

“Our freight industry is vital to underpinning the economy and keeps Britain moving, and so it is crucial we invest in new innovations to make it greener and quicker.  

“This fund will accelerate new ideas and technologies, helping to develop a future pipeline of innovations that can be rolled out to create jobs and allow everyone to get their goods faster and easier.” 
Roads Minister Richard Holden
“Each year in the UK, we transport 1.6bn tonnes of freight using many different modes of transport and it has never been quicker or easier. The freight sector makes a huge contribution to our economy but is also a significant contributor to domestic carbon emissions. 

“Today we are delighted to be working with Department for Transport to launch this Freight Innovation Fund as part of their Future of Freight strategy. The fund will help us to work with innovators and industry partners to develop a pipeline of technology and data innovations that will tackle the freight sector’s emerging needs, ensuring that resilience, efficiency and carbon reduction are core to the sector’s future.” 
Nicola Yates OBE, CEO at Connected Places Catapult

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Freight Innovation Fund AcceleratorFreight Innovation Cluster