Self-driving delivery boats to benefit from £1.8m future transport fund

A total of 41 of the UK’s most visionary organisations will share the Government’s £1.8m Transport Research and Innovation Grant for 2023.
  • Winning projects include the development of a futuristic self-driving parcel boat – designed to deliver by river.
  • An AI tool to manage railway station passenger levels and a hydrogen refuelling system for aircraft will also receive backing.
  • The projects will help transform the future of transport and boost the UK’s drive to reach its net zero targets.

From the seas to the skies, the UK is set to benefit from new transport technology innovations thanks to Government funding awarded today (21 March).

Decarbonisation, Aviation and Technology Minister Anthony Browne has announced the 41 winning projects of the 2023 Transport Research and Innovation Grant (TRIG) competition, which will share more than £1.8m between them. This will fund the development of exciting new concepts, such as an automated boat which could reduce road emissions by delivering parcels by water.

This year’s winning projects are based across the UK. A total of 83 per cent are located outside London, with 56 per cent outside the wider South East region, meaning investment is spread throughout the country.

The TRIG scheme supports businesses and academics working on innovative ideas which are in the early stages of their research. It aims to improve our transport system across all modes, as well as growing the economy and supporting skilled UK jobs.

“We’re at the dawn of a new age for transport – AI can now help tackle universal challenges like station overcrowding, or road congestion by using our historic waterways to deliver parcels by self-driving boat.

“These hugely exciting initiatives represent the best of British innovation, showing it’s UK companies, backed by Government funding, who are leading the way in this field, creating jobs and boosting our economy.”
Decarbonisation, Aviation and Technology Minister Anthony Browne

This year’s winning projects include:

  • RAD Propulsion – creating a prototype that will be make ‘last blue mile’ parcel deliveries on UK waterways, aiming to cut road congestion and emissions and improve air quality.
  • Unitrove – exploring extending its pioneering liquid hydrogen refuelling technology to aircraft to offer a solution to aviation decarbonisation.
  • Duku – addressing challenges in maritime EV charging by testing its accessible charger for small passenger ferries and harbour and sightseeing vessels improving inclusivity and sustainability among coastal communities.
  • OpenSpace – researching how an AI tool can be used to tackle rail station disruption, using algorithms to optimise passenger flow, improve passenger experience and get stations moving more quickly.
  • University of Strathclyde – using data analysis to identify ideal sites for electric HGV charging infrastructure across Scotland, supporting the industry’s transition to electric.

TRIG has now been running for a decade, funding more than 400 organisations with more than £14 million in investment. Projects have been wide-ranging from solutions to improve the accessibility of transport to the future of freight. TRIG projects regularly progress to the demonstration and scaling stages of development, showing the scheme’s success in feeding a pipeline of innovation.

This year’s scheme focused on a number of different challenges including airports, local transport and maritime decarbonisation, AI, digital twins, the future of connectivity, and the future of freight.

The grant is delivered in collaboration with Connected Places Catapult, the UK’s innovation accelerator for cities, transport and place leadership. A renewed grant funding agreement with the Catapult will begin from 1 April to ensure the continued delivery of our programmes.

“Transport Research and Innovation Grants support high-potential innovators to develop fresh ideas to tackle some of the UK’s most pressing transport challenges.

“Grants have been awarded to projects right across the country covering many transport modes; with several recipients considering how technology developed for one sector could be transferred to another. Alongside the funding, all 41 projects will receive specialist business support from Connected Places Catapult to help them realise their commercial potential.”
Erika Lewis, Chief Executive at Connected Places Catapult

The organisations selected to receive a Transport Research and Innovation Grant are:

TRIG Cohort Brochure 2023
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