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DfT launch latest round of ‘First of a Kind’ innovation competition

The Window Seater app was supported by last year’s First of a Kind competition

The government has pledged £7.6 million to further support the development of cutting-edge technology that will help transform rail travel.

Rail Minister Wendy Morton has officially announced this year’s First of a Kind competition, which invites bids from companies specialising in innovative ways to modernise the railways.

The competition is now in its sixth year, and last year, supported the innovative Window Seater app, which connects rail travellers to the world outside their window with geolocated audio stories along the railway.

This project involved community rail partnerships and volunteers from across the South West and South East, together with Community Rail Network and start-up tech company Window Seater.

In partnership with Innovate UK, this year’s competition will award up to £7.6 million to projects creating cutting-edge ideas that are striving towards transforming rail travel for passengers and decarbonising the network.

The competition officially opens to applicants today (20th April) and closes on 8th June, with bids welcome from organisations of all sizes for projects creating a greener, more cost effective and passenger-focused railway.

This year’s competition is focusing on technologies that improve the industry’s cost efficiency and network performance to support a more reliable railway for passengers and improving rail freight.

Wendy Morton said: “I am incredibly excited to launch the sixth round of our First of a Kind competition. In partnership with Innovate UK, we have already invested £35.4 million into over 100 groundbreaking projects.

“We’ve seen cutting-edge technologies such as HydroFLEX developed, the first ever trial of a hydrogen-powered train on the UK mainline, and software improving accessibility such as the Hearing Enhanced Audio Relay app.

“As part of our Plan for Rail, it’s key we continue breathing life into new ideas and supporting innovation and design to deliver greener rail journeys and transform rail travel for all passengers.”

Last year saw 33 innovators receive grants of up to £400,000 each.