Eight passenger tech firms shortlisted to present innovations at Bristol Temple Meads

The Station Innovation Zone programme welcomes SMEs with ideas to help improve the passenger experience.

Eight technology firms with concepts designed to make rail stations safer, easier to navigate and more sustainable have been selected to develop proposals; with three ultimately invited to trial their innovations at Bristol Temple Meads.

Over the coming months the SMEs will be supported by Connected Places Catapult to develop proposals to trial their technologies as part of the Station Innovation Zone – a multi-million-pound programme at Bristol Temple Meads established to test new ways to improve various aspects of the passenger experience.

Innovations being taken forward as part of the programme cover three industry ‘challenges’ – set by Network Rail and the Catapult, with the support of a cross-industry advisory board – which are ‘Sustainable Station’, ‘Seamless Station’ and ‘Safe Station’.

Solutions selected include technologies focused on making journeys easier for people with accessibility needs; making stations more environmentally sustainable; and using artificial intelligence to identify behaviours that might be unsafe.

This year’s eight firms welcomed onto the Station Innovation Zone and their innovations – listed under each challenge – are:

Sustainable Station:

Co-You – Creating an innovative carbon dioxide absorbing panel system, to be deployed in a station to capture CO2 from diesel train emissions. The panel system, developed by the London-based SME, is scalable to help achieve net zero targets.

Tumblebug – Recovering food waste through passenger and staff engagement, and processing it on site through innovative food waste technology; thereby regenerating climate and soil through the rotation of carbon and nutrients back into the earth.

Seamless Station:

The Virtual Tour Experts – Making the world more accessible and navigable through immersive 360° content. Its solution provides passengers with travel anxiety or mobility issues with personalised support leading to an improved transit experience. An enhanced Virtual Accessibility System for Transport product will provide passengers with an improved wayfinding solution.

There Maps – Developing software for the rail sector which guides passengers directly to their platforms and nearby destinations, and goods to the relevant delivery point. A smart mapping and navigation systems for commercial operators and consumers.

Video Window – Creating an extension of physical space using an ‘always-on’ video conferencing portal. Life-sized video kiosks placed strategically around a station will mean that customers can always get human assistance for wayfinding, onward journey planning and any other queries.

Safe Station

Chrome Angel Solutions – Applying ‘serious games’ technology to tackle the toughest performance, safety and customer experience challenges for railway operators. Rapidly scalable, low-cost simulations deployed through app stores on mobile devices, tablets, PC and virtual reality headsets build staff confidence and competence for complex and critical operational processes and situations.

CrossTech – Helping clients involved in the station, infrastructure and rolling stock domains to improve operational performance, efficiency and safety by locating or predicting potential hazards before they cause delays or potential risks. Specialists in automated computer vision inspection software for railway industry domains.

Innovation Factory – Harnessing the power of advanced AI vision and precision laser beams to effectively ward off pigeons from train stations using an innovative bird deterrent system. This cutting-edge solution not only ensures the safety and cleanliness of these public spaces but also prioritises the wellbeing of the birds and the environment.

Companies in this cohort are taking part in year two of the Station Innovation Zone, following the trial competition launch at the beginning of 2023.

“After another hotly contested application process, I’m very pleased to see an impressive and diverse list of innovators to work with in year two of the Station Innovation Zone.

“Year one taught us the value of a blended team approach with the Catapult, Network Rail, Great Western Railway and SMEs all working together to establish effective trials that solve meaningful challenges. This coming year additionally brings innovation related to net-zero stations to the fore through the ‘Sustainable Station’ category.

“A bit like an iceberg, it’s a big cross-organisational effort below the water to get the Station Innovation Zone delivering. By working in this unique and collaborative way through the Station Innovation Zone, we’re able to support small companies with big ideas to develop tomorrow’s technologies.”
Dr Alan Peters, Ecosystem Director – Rail and Stations at Connected Places Catapult

Once the selected SMEs have developed their trial proposals, they will each be evaluated by a team from the Catapult and Network Rail, with three chosen to progress to live trials. This group will be supported with further funding of up to £75,000 each and expert support to install, test and evaluate their technologies at Bristol Temple Meads. Passengers at the station will witness the first of these trials later this year.

“In year two of the Station Innovation Zone we hope to make some tangible improvements to the passenger experience. Bristol Temple Meads is a busy station with a lot of renovation work going on, so anything we can deliver that solves some of our day-to-day problems will be great. Through Connected Places Catapult and the Station Innovation Zone, we are able to bring in a range of companies with innovations who we would not usually meet in our normal, day to day business. Success for us will mean changes in our processes, with more digital and smart solutions to problems.”
Network Rail's Head of Stations and Passenger Experience, Calum Mackay

Find out more about the eight companies in our cohort. This year represents the second cohort of the Station Innovation Zone at Bristol Temple Meads. Read about the companies selected to trial their innovations in year one.

The Station Innovation Zone programme is being delivered by Connected Places Catapult in partnership with Network Rail and is supported by Innovate UK.