Station Innovation Zone

Bristol Temple Meads has been established as UK’s first ‘Station Innovation Zone’, trialling new technologies designed to upgrade passengers’ experience.

About the project

Stations serve as important cornerstones of the transport network. They often form the first impression a visitor has of a city or town and they link rail travel with other public transport modes. They are also a complex mix of interacting systems – people, processes, information and facilities.      

Innovating in rail stations is difficult. Innovators wanting to trial new solutions face many barriers, including navigating the approvals landscape, meeting procurement and contractual requirements, accessing funding, integrating with other systems, and coordinating with diverse stakeholders. 

The Station Innovation Zone programme was launched to help overcome these barriers and to demonstrate that innovation can happen in a way that makes a real difference to passengers’ experience in UK stations. 

To ensure that innovation is targeted, Connected Places Catapult co-created a vision for a future station. This vision was created together with a broad spectrum of stakeholders at local and national levels: 

“The station of the future will be a proud, efficient gateway to the place it serves. The station of the future reflects local identity and is open and inclusive to all. It convenes people, businesses and culture without compromising on purpose: effective transit through its spaces. Our vision is to design a safe, sociable, seamless and sustainable station that enables both social and financial prosperity.” 

This vision is accompanied by four enduring challenge themes for innovators to address that would help us move towards it: 

Safe Station – How might we enhance safety at the station through improved station operations?  

Seamless Station – How might we improve the provision of customer information, by tailoring it to passengers’ needs and adapting it at times of disruption?  

Social Station – How might the station be a great place to spend time for passengers and local communities, whilst functioning as a transport hub? 

Sustainable Station – How might we incorporate sustainability into the station, without impacting operations and in-keeping with the listed status of the building? 

The Station Innovation Zone at Bristol Temple Meads will allow SME innovators to trial their ideas in a live station environment and measure the impact on the passenger experience and station operations. Results from live trials will serve to: 

  • Bring confidence for rail technology buyers  
  • Demonstrate the viability of new technologies   
  • Foster new collaborations and partnerships 
  • Diversify the supply chain  
  • Accelerate SME growth 

Year 1

In October 2022 the Catapult launched an Innovation Funding Programme designed to select the first group of innovators to develop proposals to trial their solutions to the challenge themes, at the station. In the first phase, innovators were  awarded funds to conduct a feasibility study which examines the suitability of their solution for trialling in a rail station environment.

In the second phase, 3 of these innovators were  granted further funding to trial their solution in Bristol Temple Meads Station. This provided the opportunity to measure their effect on the challenge, demonstrate impact and build the commercial case needed to scale their solution.

Year 2

In August 2023 the second Station Innovation Zone competition at Bristol Temple Meads opened for applications. Eight SMEs were selected receive funding to develop a proposed trail plan. Three of the SMEs will be chosen to move forward to live trials, each receiving funding to support deployment at the station.

This programme is funded by Innovate UK and will be run in collaboration with Network Rail. It aims to create a hub for innovative trials and demonstrations at Bristol Temple Meads until 2028, with funding reviewed annually and plans in place to roll out the model to other stations as it succeeds.

Contact the project team

For more information on this project, contact