Rural Transport Accelerator

Applications close midnight 29 February

Apply now

The Department of Transport (DfT) is supporting SMEs and local authorities to expedite the integration of innovative practices, enhance transportation services for users, and foster improved connectivity within rural communities. This accelerator programme will expedite the uptake of innovations to improve transport in rural areas through a series of demonstrators that will develop potential solutions to the challenges that have been set out in DfT’s rural transport innovation guide.

This accelerator programme offers 6 to 8 projects, that will adopt innovative approaches to enhancing rural mobility, up to £150k of funding per project. The focus of the programme is on enhancing rural transport, offering people more choice and enabling better connections with local areas.

The project addresses the DfT’s objective to support and increase the use of innovation to address challenges within the transport system. In addition, it directly supports the following strategic priorities:

  • Improving transport for the user, delivering and maintaining a transport system that is safe, reliable, joined-up and inclusive.
  • Reducing environmental impacts, tackling climate change, and improving air quality by providing alternative transport choices for users.
  • Improving access to public transport, reducing car dependency, and promoting active travel.
  • Growing and levelling up the economy by accelerating projects that support the regeneration of left-behind towns and places.

Virtual Consortium Building Event

On 6 February we hosted a virtual consortium building event.

This event focused on pitching project ideas and brokering partnerships for the Rural Transport Accelerator programme. You can watch the event below.

Key Dates

Programme Challenges

Through the Rural Transport Accelerator delivered by Connected Places Catapult, we are looking for consortium of innovators and local authorities to develop technology, products and services that aim to make the UK’s transport network safer, more resilient, greener, and more accessible. This initiative serves a dual purpose, contributing to both the adoption of innovative solutions and the overall wellbeing of rural communities.

We are looking at innovations that will look to: 

  • Enhance community wellbeing. 
  • Support local economies. 
  • Address specific needs of the rural population. 
  • Enable growth and new opportunities in rural area. 
  • Respond to new climate challenges. 

1: Importance of rural roads for everyday journeys

Rural roads are lifelines for residents, enabling access to education, healthcare, employment opportunities, and essential services. This challenge aims to explore and implement strategies that harness the importance of rural roads for everyday journeys (village, hamlets, isolated dwellings).

  1. a. How do we improve rural road network (not the Strategic Road Network) resilience?
    • Improve road infrastructure for climate adaption (e.g. impact from increased rainfall)
    • Improve road safety for accident avoidance (potholes, lighting, road marking, road condition, vehicles and other road users etc…)

2: Driving towards a sustainable future

  1. a. How do we improve sustainable connectivity between people business and places in rural areas? 
    • Placed-based initiatives that explore schemes around shared mobility in a rural context such as i.e. rural transport/mobility hubs, car share, shared vehicle ownership, alternative fuels, EV hubs, Demand Responsive Transport (DRT), intermodal transports.
  1. b. How can we sustainably deliver goods to rural communities from a local authority infrastructure point of view? 
    • New approaches to deliver goods and services. This challenge seeks visionary solutions that will leverage the technological capabilities taking into account the diverse needs and nuances of rural communities, including agricultural goods.

3: Enabling innovation in rural mobility

We are looking for solutions to reduce isolation and help build community activity that benefits inclusion for all within the rural transport systems. (This can include place-based organisations within a rural setting.) 

  1. a. How can mobility solutions support reduced isolation in rural communities? 
    • Activities around peri-urban to rural areas and vice-versa 
    • Activities around rural to hamlets and isolated dwellings areas and vice-versa 
  1. b. How can mobility solutions improve access to services for rural communities? 
    • Innovations around first and last mile connectivity and the implications and benefits of application. 

4: Advancements in agricultural transportation 

In the ever-evolving landscape of agriculture, forestry and growers, there is benefit in leveraging advancements in agritech to enhance prosperity by creating better rural transport operations.

  1. a. How do we reduce the impact of agricultural vehicles on the road networks? 
  1. b. How can transport automation benefit rural businesses? 
  1. c. How can we improve agricultural supply chain logistics? 

5: Open Challenges

  1. a. How do we build communities and enable adoption of technology within rural areas? 
    • People experience: We are looking for solutions that prioritise inclusivity for diverse demographic groups within rural communities and address the needs of elderly residents, individuals with disabilities, and those with limited access to traditional transportation modes. 
  1. b. Wildcard: Although this accelerator focuses primarily on the five challenge areas, we are also open to additional innovative ideas that could support rural regions which have sporadic digital infrastructure. 

What’s on offer?

Funding Opportunities

The opportunity to access up to £150K funding for the testing and trialling of live demonstrations

Coaching and Mentoring

Including pitch coaching, business support and fundraising support

Business Development

Business development opportunities and introductions to potential customers

Trial Support

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

Procurement Support

Tailored procurement readiness programme

Solution Showcase

Showcase the success of your trials and meet investors, industry leaders, Government and academia at the end of the programme

Am I eligible for this programme?

We are seeking applications for demonstrators/trials in which the lead applicant will be contracted directly by Connected Places Catapult, funded by the Department for Transport. 

The lead applicant must have established a partnership or consortium which involves: 

  •  an innovative micro or small to medium sized enterprise (< 250 employees) with a solution that is at TRL 5-7 

and at least one of the following:

  • a Local Authority rural area,
  • Sub-national Transport Body (STB) with a rural area,
  • a Tier 1 supplier to a Local Authority with the ability to run the demonstrator in a rural area. 

All applicants must be: 

  • Able to address one or more challenge statements with the proposed solution.
  • Willing to complete a development, testing or demonstration of your solution in a real or relevant environment.
  • Willing to travel on occasion to face-to-face meetings and events.
  • Based in the UK.

How to apply

Please register through the link below. Applications close midnight 29 February.

Only the lead applicant needs to submit an application.

Apply now

Point of contact

If you have any questions about the programme and application, please contact:

David Peinturier,, Accelerator Programme Manager, Connected Places Catapult.

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