Accelerator aims to inject innovation into rural transport

Funding of up to £150,000 per project is on offer to help small and medium sized companies and their trial partners to test new technologies that promise to enhance transport services and better connect rural communities.

Between six and eight projects offering new ideas to boost rural mobility and provide people with more travel choice will be chosen this spring to take part in a competition from the Department for Transport, delivered by Connected Places Catapult.

From today, the Rural Transport Accelerator programme is open to applications from small to medium sized companies (or their trial partners) to set out their innovations, products or services to help improve travel for users and ensure the rural transport system is as safe, reliable, joined-up and inclusive as possible.

Also encouraged are ideas that reduce environmental impact, tackle climate change and improve air quality associated with rural transport; and those that aim to improve access to public transport, reduce car dependency and promote active travel.

Innovations are also welcome that seek to enhance community wellbeing, support local economies and enable growth.

The Accelerator is looking for applications from consortia involving an innovative SME and at least one of the following: a local authority in a rural area; a Sub-national Transport Body with a rural area; or a Tier 1 supplier to a local authority (provided they can run the demonstrator in a rural area). All consortium members must be based in the UK.

Entrants to the Accelerator competition should look to address challenges in one of the following categories:

Importance of rural roads for everyday journeys – including innovations to increase rural road network resilience, improve infrastructure in the face of a changing climate and boost safety.

Driving towards a sustainable future – such as shared mobility, alternative fuels and demand responsive transport; as well as new approaches to delivering goods and services.

Enabling innovation in rural mobility – including efforts to reduce isolation in rural communities, and new opportunities around first and last-mile connectivity.

Advancements in agricultural transportation – such as ways to reduce the impact of farm vehicles on the road network, considering how transport automation can benefit rural businesses, and improving supply chain logistics.

Open challenges – including building communities and enabling the adoption of technology within rural areas; plus addressing the needs of elderly residents and individuals with disabilities.

“The new Rural Transport Accelerator programme, funded by the Department for Transport, aims to foster innovation as a way to improve connectivity in our rural communities. Connected Places Catapult is committed to enhancing transport outcomes for those living in or visiting rural communities, in order to improve health, wellbeing and prosperity.”
Connected Places Catapult’s, Executive Director, SME Development and Academic Engagement, Alex Weedon said:
“We are working hard to ensure our rural areas are prosperous, and that is why we want to be able to use the best and latest innovations in transport to ensure people have access to the opportunities available across the whole of the UK.

“Today’s announcement will help fund projects that will help seek innovative approaches to enhancing rural mobility, offering people more choice and enabling better connections with local areas.”
Transport Minister Anthony Browne said:

Applicants have until midnight on 29 February to submit their ideas, after which judges will select between six and eight finalists to take their designs forward to trial – with a funding pot of up to £150,000 per project available to develop proposals further.

Those welcomed onto the programme will benefit from mentoring, including pitch coaching and fundraising support; business development opportunities and introductions to potential customers; and support on trials and procurement.