News story

Department for Transport to invest record amounts in small businesses

One third of Department for Transport procurement spending to be committed towards small and medium-sized enterprises.

Picture of people at work.
  • Department for Transport pledges a third of its procurement budget to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)
  • further measures set out to break down the barriers for smaller firms, outlining support up to 2022
  • part of a government drive to build a strong, viable private sector that delivers value for taxpayers and millions of jobs

The Department for Transport (DfT) has today (6 August 2018) set out plans to level the playing field for small businesses bidding for government contracts.

In its SME Action Plan, the DfT has committed to directing a third of its procurement spending towards small and medium-sized enterprises by 2022.

As part of this pledge, the department has also awarded £700,000 in Transport Technology Research Innovation Grants (T-TRIG) to support innovative transport projects, including a universal train access ramp that would help disabled people board trains more easily across the network.

Transport minister Jo Johnson said:

Small and medium-sized businesses play a key role in this country’s economy and I am proud of our outstanding record in this area.

With this new action plan, we are leading by example by making it easier for these businesses to bid for contracts, and we will continue to support them over the coming years.

This year, out of 23 innovative transport projects given a share of £700,000, 14 were from small and medium-sized enterprises with fewer than 250 members of staff.

These projects include:

  • a system to encourage uptake of electric taxis by providing live information on charge points for electric private hire vehicles
  • an app (Signly) that improves communication and passenger experience for people who use sign language
  • developing software to improve the use of airspace and reduce commercial flight times

T-TRIG funds organisations with innovative early-stage projects, which show promising transport benefits for the UK. It has already provided a total of around £2 million of innovation funding since its launch in 2014.

Today’s announcement bolsters the Department of Transport’s existing support for small businesses, with the department having exceeded its initial target for procurement spend with SMEs.

It also comes as part of the government’s growth agenda which seeks to maximise the positive impact of public spending on boosting the economy.

Transport-Technology Research Innovation Grants (T-TRIG) December 2017 awards and their potential transport benefits

Open Call Competition

Project title Organisation (type) Project description Potential transport benefits Funding
An active retro reflector for unambiguous object localisation Plextek Services Ltd (SME) The development of a tagging system for vehicles which can bounce back a unique radar signal in order to provide exact vehicle recognition. This information can be used to support intelligent and autonomous transport systems. Reducing road congestion and improving road safety. £29,970.00
Smart wind barriers for traffic and bridge protection City, University of London Developing a proof of concept prototype smart wind barrier for bridges which adapts to the existing weather conditions in order to maximise the protection to the vehicles while reducing the force on the underlying structure. Improving safety of bridges and reducing the amount bridges are closed in high-wind conditions. £29,894.00
Advance flat panel antenna for satellite communication On-The-Move: an innovative approach towards the Internet of Things for the rail industry Heriot-Watt University Developing a prototype of a flat panel antenna solution which will enable reliable broadband connectivity for high-speed rail services. Improving customer journeys through improved internet connectivity. £30,000.00
Development of a hydrophobic, freezing temperature sensing, and self-heating road coating system University of Plymouth Developing a proof of concept for a smart coating material which could prevent the formation of ice on roads in wintery conditions. Improving road safety in winter conditions. £30,000.00
Enhancing performance analysis of complex transit systems Ito World (SME) Delivering a prototype visualisation tool for a multi-modal transport system through combining real-time and historic data. This will be used to provide a live, detailed, view of the transport system’s performance and provide recommendations for improvement. Enabling transport operators to have live information on the performance of the transport system, enabling better planning. £30,000.00
A compact hydrogen powered range extender Newcastle University Developing and testing a prototype free-piston engine generator, which operates on hydrogen fuel and could be used a range extender for road vehicles. Reducing Carbon Dioxide emission and improving air quality. £29,274.18
Universal Train Access Ramp Cecence Ltd (SME) Developing and laboratory testing a ramp made of lightweight composite materials. This will enable one ramp to be used for all trains and be lighter and easier to use then existing ramps in stations. Improving the accessibility on the transport system. £30,000.00
Range extender hybrid electric motorcycle University of Nottingham The development of a hybrid gas/electric motorcycle which is capable of being used directly as a range extender for an electric aircraft. Facilitating and improving the utilization of electric flight for short journeys. £30,000.00
Integrated platform for booking and allocating recharging slots for electric taxis EV Technology Limited (SME) Developing an electric taxi management system which provides live information and booing of charging stations, which will support the uptake of electric taxis by private hire companies. Supporting the uptake of electric vehicles for taxis, reducing transport emissions and improving air quality. £30,000.00
Vehicle to grid controller with modular communications V2G EVSE Limited (SME) Developing a prototype for a vehicle to grid electric charging station controller, which will enable optimal charging across multiple vehicles, managing energy demand. This will include modular communications which will provide information to a central system. Improving the charging of electric vehicles. £29,050.00
Agile airspace collaborative decision making Winsland Ltd (SME) Developing a software demonstrator enabling the better use of airspace through effectively managing military airspace. This will enable use of this airspace for civil aviation when not being used for military purposes. Improving the utilisation of airspace and reducing air travel times. £30,000.00
Hyperloop beta HYPED Ltd (SME) The development of a software tool which will model the technical feasibility of Hyperloop and inform the potential economic and social impact of Hyperloop on the transport system. Informing DfT evidence base and monitor development of the technology. £29,952.00
Signly Disruption App Signly Ltd (SME) The development of an application which will enable better access to rail disruption information for deaf and hard of hearing passengers, who cannot hear or might miss station announcements, through providing the travel information directly to their personal device. Improving customer journeys and passenger experience. £28,980.00
Smart charging stations for accurate and reliable electric vehicle battery monitoring University of Liverpool Developing improved monitoring and diagnostic techniques for batteries in order to support the reliability of electric vehicles and optimize charging to maximise battery life. Improving the charging of electric vehicles. £26,337.48
Proof of concept for an innovative dynamic power transfer technology (electric roads) Algret Innovations LTD (SME) Developing a working prototype for a direct contact electric system, enabling the safe charging of vehicles on the road. This could be used as an alternative way of charging vehicles which spend significant idle, such as taxis queuing. Developing alternative ways of charging electric vehicles to support uptake. £30,000.00

Using Big Data and Machine Learning to improve the UK’s road network

Project title Organisation (type) Project description Potential transport benefits Funding
Statistical and computational tools for network resilience City Science Ltd (SME) Development of a big data tool set which will improve the understanding of network resilience which will improve understanding of the economic impact of delays on the road transport network and will identify areas in the systems where resilience could be improved. Improving knowledge of the economic impact of delays in the road network and inform resilience infrastructure planning. £30,906.00
Traffic Signal Advisor Service (TSAS) INRIX UK Ltd (Large) Developing a Machine Learning approach using traffic lights and traffic pattern data, in order to optimize traffic light signals and reduce congestion. Reducing congestion and improving air quality. £39,400.00
Prediction of post-accident road network recovery time Ove Arup & Partners Limited (Large) Developing machine learning techniques to reduce congestion impact on the UK road network by providing road operators with a tool for predicting post-accident road network recovery time, allowing them to respond more effectively. Improving responses to accidents, reducing road closure times and subsequent congestion. £34,061.73

T-TRIG December 2017: maritime autonomy, technology and solutions to reduce shipping emissions

Project title Organisation (type) Project description Potential transport benefits Funding
Detecting the impact of vessels on air quality using emission monitoring systems Newcastle University The development of a robust and cost-effective method for understanding the impact of shipping on local air quality in a regional area, through correlating data collected by a network of air quality sensors, with local shipping activities. Improved data collection and understanding of shipping on air quality. £29,024.64
Smart Navigation ASV Ltd (SME) The identification of the technical and data requirements to enable the development of a smart chart system, which will provide the information to autonomous vessels which would enable safe navigation. Improving knowledge of data requirements for autonomous vessels. £29,897.00
Smart wind assisted propulsion SMAR Azure Ltd (SME) The development and testing of an electric assisted wind propulsion system, which could reduce fuel consumption and reduce emissions from maritime vessels. Improving maritime air quality. £35,000.00
TeamPorts - real time depth data for ports TeamSurv Ltd (SME) The development of a system which could enable the provision of real-time depth data within ports, through using cloud based data collected from vessels, improving shipping navigation. Improved collection of depth data in ports, supporting safer shipping navigation £29,160.00
Duodrivetrain - proof of concept Duodrive Ltd (SME) The development of an alternative drive system, which can be retrofitted to existing vessels, that has the potential to be more fuel efficient then existing drive systems. Improving maritime air quality and reducing emissions. £30,000.00

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Published 6 August 2018