£1.3m to back cutting-edge transport projects

Image by Abizer Shihorwala on Unsplash

A £1.3m competition which aims to encourage innovation and improve transport in the UK is searching for bright ideas. 

The latest round of the government’s Transport Research and Innovation Grant (TRIG) is now open, with organisations and academics able to win up to £45,000 in funding.

The TRIG scheme, delivered by Connected Places Catapult, supports businesses and academics working on innovative ideas in the early stages of their research.

The competition has been running for a decade and previous TRIG winners have gone on to improve the passenger experience across the country through:

  • Better connecting rural communities with a shuttle bus app.
  • Ensuring people can stay online whilst travelling by sea by expanding 5G data coverage.
  • Using AI technology to provide real-time insights to authorities on how local transport is being used so it can be improved.
  • Trialling the use of hydrogen to make plane and boat journeys greener.

This year’s competition is seeking proposals focused on:

  • Nation specific transport solutions – a new category for projects that address specific transport challenges in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland to level up the whole of the UK’s transport system and boost connectivity.
  • Local transport decarbonisation – innovative ideas that accelerate the decarbonisation of local transport systems, demonstrating an understanding of the needs of local areas and communities, whilst also having the potential to be scaled up across the UK in the future
  • Maritime decarbonisation – maritime solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the UK’s maritime sector to support the transition to net zero
  • Critical and emerging technologies – ideas that utilise critical technologies, such as AI, or any emerging technologies, such as drones, to enable a resilient transport system delivering cheaper, cleaner, and quicker journeys for all
  • Open call – wider solutions that have the potential to address a UK transport challenge, across the entire network, challenges and technology areas

Last year’s TRIG competition saw 41 projects win funding, including a project that uses AI to reduce train station overcrowding and a self-driving parcel delivery boat to reduce road congestion.

Erika Lewis, chief executive at Connected Places Catapult, said: “Innovation is at the heart of helping our transport system to improve services for people, allow goods to be delivered more effectively and to meet environmental targets.

“The Transport Research and Innovation Grants programme supports high-potential innovators to develop fresh ideas, providing financial assistance and a wide range of business support from Connected Places Catapult to help them realise their commercial potential.

“The TRIG programme has been running for 10 years and goes from strength to strength. If you have an innovative idea that you think could help tackle some of the UK’s transport challenges, I urge you to apply now.”

During the past decade, TRIG funding has helped more than 400 companies with more than £14m in investment. Projects have been wide-ranging, from solutions to improving the accessibility of transport to the future of freight. 

Projects regularly progress to the demonstration and scaling stages of development, showing the scheme’s success in feeding a pipeline of innovation. 

Many winners have gone on to develop solutions that have real-world impact. 

One such project is RideTandem, which has created an app-based shuttle bus service for employers and schools, aimed at areas where traditional public transport is not viable. 

This on-demand transport service helps to keep rural communities better connected in a flexible and sustainable way.

Tatseng Chiam, co-founder and chief operating officer at RideTandem, said: “TRIG support was essential in the early days of RideTandem, setting us on a path towards becoming one of the top 100 fastest-growing companies in the UK. 

“An initial TRIG grant in 2019 enabled us to develop our first initial tech prototype, and we appreciated the TRIG team’s willingness to accommodate our product pivot during a challenging period in COVID-19. 

“We’re delighted to have received further support from TRIG 2023 as we experiment with how AI-powered predictive analytics could be integrated into our tech platform.”

The latest TRIG funding announcement has been welcomed by the Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE). Recognising the importance of innovation in the transport space, it has encouraged its members to apply.

Last year, following input from its Transport and Mobility Advocacy Group, ACE submitted evidence to the Transport Committee’s inquiry into the Future of Transport Data, setting out the transformative potential of innovation and advanced data-driven technologies such as artificial intelligence, digital twins and sensor networks. 

ACE’s 2023 Manifesto, developed in collaboration with the Transport Group, also called for strengthened financial incentives for innovation in the transport sector and an environment in which businesses can experiment and test their innovations.

The organisation said it was “pleased to see government has followed this recommendation" and encouraged its members to apply for TRIG 2024 funding. 

Graham Pointer, chair of ACE’s Transport Group, added: “By developing innovative solutions and embracing technological advancements, transport professionals working in the built environment are at the forefront of the UK’s efforts to tackle major challenges including the decarbonisation of transport and the need to increase connectivity. 

“It is positive to see DfT and Connected Places Catapult continuing to support innovators in the transport space, and in my role as chair of the Transport Group I strongly encourage colleagues with big ideas to take advantage of this opportunity.” 

Applications for this year’s competition close on May 21, 2024.

Apply via the Connected Places Catapult website.

A TRIG 24 application support and information webinar is also being held on May 2. Click here for more details.

If you would like to contact Karen McLauchlan about this, or any other story, please email