State-owned operators launch innovations scheme

The four nationalised train operators in England have joined forces to encourage innovations which could contribute to tomorrow’s railway.

LNER, Northern, Southeastern and TransPennine Express, all of which are ultimately owned by the government through the Department for Transport, are seeking the latest technology which could be sent to ‘Future Labs’, a scheme intended to boost the development of ideas about solving present and future problems.

Successful applicants will be allowed to see confidential industry data, and they will also be able to consult with the operators and their specialist staff.

The inventors will be able to apply, test and demonstrate their ideas on the existing railway over 12 weeks. Applications can be made at at the Future Labs website, and must be submitted by 16 June. 

Speaking jointly, the operators said: ‘Future Labs is all about transforming the rail industry through open, pioneering and proven innovation. By giving technology startups access to live environments and expert mentorship they can test their proposed solutions in a real-world environment.’ 

One previous success is the Artificial Intelligence system Amygda, launched in 2022, which helps fleet engineers to deal with problems on rolling stock as they arise.

Chief executive and founder Faizan Patankar said: ‘The rail industry provided us with invaluable access to live environments that allowed us to test and develop our product.

‘The unique opportunity to generate our own insights was instrumental in building an understanding of the nuances of real-world data capture.

‘Given the excellent experience it was to work with rail experts, the expanded scale of the programme with four operators is a really exciting opportunity for innovators.’

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