Freight Innovation Fund
Accelerator Cohort 3

Applications are now closed.

What is the Freight Innovation Fund?

The UK Government has committed to a dedicated £7m cross-modal Freight Innovation Fund (FIF) as part of the Future of Freight strategy, which sets out the Government’s long-term vision for the UK freight sector. Funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) and delivered through Connected Places Catapult, the Freight Innovation Fund is a multi-faceted programme which will accelerate the adoption of commercially ready solutions into the sector.

About the Accelerator Programme Cohort 3 (2024-25)

The Freight Innovation Fund Accelerator will support up to 12 Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) to trial their solutions in real-world environments to help solve pressing challenges within the freight sector. The SMEs will be selected by the DfT and Connected Places Catapult to join a 6-month programme, where each of them can access up to £150,000 to trial their solutions via a pre-commercial Pilot & Trial contract.

SMEs have two options when applying to the programme:

  • Apply to be matched with an industry partner Connected Places Catapult will work with industry partners, who will provide access to testing environments and internal expertise. They will also play an active role in the SME selection as part of the due diligence process. The industry partners supporting the accelerator programme are DHL, Eddie Stobart, Freightliner, Maritime Transport, Port of Dover, Port of Tilbury, Welch Group, Wincanton and DP World UK. If you would like to get additional details about the programme partners, their motivations, potential trial facilities and resources available, please click here.
  • Apply with your own Industry Partner

    We also welcome applications from SMEs who already have a partner they wish to trial their solutions with and can offer access to testbed facilities.

Bespoke Support for Successful SMEs

As part of the programme, SMEs will also benefit from trial and business support tailored to their needs. This will include but is not limited to trial design training, monitoring and evaluation, investment readiness, pitch coaching, marketing support, and business modelling.

All applicants will also be able to join the Freight Innovation Cluster, a community for stakeholders operating in the freight industry. Learn more here

Application Support Webinar

Connected Places Catapult held an Application Support Webinar, which included an overview of the programme, challenges, guidance on the application process and live Q&A. See the presentation here.

Key Dates

Programme Challenges

Learn more about the challenges here

Challenge 1: Optimisation of Journeys

Innovations and technologies that enable freight organisations to optimise and maximise the use of existing journeys by empowering cross-sector partnership and collaboration.

More info

This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Route optimisation and planning softwear
  • Forecasting tools and AI to predetermine demand & supply and better understand journeys, destinations and space available
  • Data sharing platforms to enable and empower collaboration across the sector
  • New physical and operational solutions for loading and unloading empty containers
  • Systemic innovation to maximise freight space across organisations and operators

Challenge 2: Net Zero and Data

Advanced solutions that lead the way towards net zero, enable accurate and consistent carbon calculations, and encourage multi-stakeholder freight climate action.

More info

This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Data Sharing Platforms which enable clients and partners to collaborate towards shared net zero goals
  • AI and sensors which capture carbon emissions more accurately
  • Software as a Service carbon accounting platforms to enable data-based actions and accurate carbon reporting
  • New carbon accounting methods
  • E-mobility technologies
  • Carbon and a currency methodologies

Challenge 3: Inland Waterways

Unlocking the potential of river and canal freight through the systemic improvement of inland waterway logistics, vessels and infrastructure to decarbonise urban deliveries.

More info

This may include, but is not limited to:

  • New systemic solutions to develop the sector with no further impact on wildlife and the environment
  • Methods and technologies that overcome difficulties in loading and unloading of barges and boats during low tide
  • Ways to utilise waterways instead of land for the loading and unloading of canal freight
  • Pop up depot spaces for waterways
  • Electric Boats, Charging Infrastructure and Autonomous Vehicles

Challenge 4: Open Challenge

Innovations that aim at decarbonising and improving the inter-modal connections between freight transport modes.

More info

This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Innovations which can contribute to a sustainable, regenerative and smoother intermodal connection between freight transport modes.

What’s on offer to SMEs?


Access up to £150,000 + 30% of in-kind match funds from SMEs. Connected Places Catapult will be procuring the services for the programme under a pre-commercial Pilot & Trial contract.

More info

Match Funding

DfT will provide up to £150,000 to each successful SME, the specific amount will be determined based on the trial proposal submitted. Connected Places Catapult will be procuring the services for the programme under a pre-commercial Pilot & Trial contract.

As Connected Places Catapult will be contracting with the successful organisation using a pre-commercial set-up, the funding will not constitute a grant and therefore will not be subject to Minimal Financial Assistance (MFA). More information in the application guidance.

To foster a collaborative and mutually beneficial partnership, SMEs are expected to contribute 30% of the total project cost as matching funds. For instance, if the overall project expenses amount to £100,000, you should apply for £70,000 in grant funding from the Freight Innovation Fund programme while providing £30,000 in matching funds.

Designed to be in-kind, the matching fund could include but is not limited to:

  • Labour costs
  • Overheads
  • Materials costs
  • Capital usage (property, equipment, facilities, others)
  • Subcontractor costs
  • Travel and subsistence costs
  • Other costs – Workshop/lab usage charge outs, training costs, preparation of technical reports, market assessment, licensing in new technologies and patent filing costs of new IP.

Fee payment structure: 40% upfront when the programme live starts, 20% upon completion of the trial plan and 40% at the end of the programme.

Trial Support

This could include, but is not limited to trial design training, deployment support, trial monitoring and evaluation support.

Investment Support

One-to-one sessions with an experienced investment coach.

Marketing Support

One-to-one sessions with an experienced marketing coach.

Demonstration Day

An opportunity to showcase the success of your trials and meet investors, industry leaders, Government and academia at the end of the programme.

Business Development

Business development opportunities and introductions to potential customers.

Membership of the Freight Innovation Cluster

Am I eligible for this programme?

At the point of application:

    • You must be a Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME).
    • You must have a registered UK company address.
    • You must have operations in the UK.
    • You must have an innovative solution at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 5+.
    • You must be willing to test in a real-world environment.
    • You must be able to address one the accelerator challenge statements with your solution.

How to apply?

Applications are now closed.

Point of contact

If you have any questions about the programme and application, please contact our Freight Innovation Fund Team,

Contact us

Application Support Webinar

We recommend that you attend the Application Support Webinar on 16 May at 10:00, which will include an overview of the programme, challenges, guidance on the application process and live Q&A.

Register here

Equality & Diversity

Connected Places Catapult and the Department for Transport are collecting equality, diversity, and inclusion (ED&I) data as part of the application process to promote and ensure equality of access for the programmes it delivers. This data will help us monitor the performance of efforts to promote ED&I in research and business innovation. All personal data will be processed in accordance with current UK data protection legislation, including the Data Protection Act 2018 and the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR).

Connected Places Catapult are part of the Catapult Network Inclusivity in Innovation Charter

Funded by:

Delivered by:

Industry Partners

Logo of DP World, featuring a stylized globe with red and green curved lines intersecting it, positioned above the text "DP WORLD" in bold, black capital letters.
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