£1.8 million boost for innovation to decarbonise freight

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More people and businesses across the UK will benefit from smarter, more efficient and more sustainable deliveries thanks to a £1.8m Government funding boost.

Today (Wednesday 1 May), Roads Minister Guy Opperman is launching the third year of the £7 million Freight Innovation Fund Accelerator to deliver innovative tech across the industry to decarbonise freight and boost the UK supply chain as part of the Government’s plan to grow the economy.

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can receive up to £1.8 million in Government funding to support the freight sector in deploying cutting-edge AI technology and automation to improve the way trains, lorries, vans, and ships carry parcels and goods.

The first two years of the fund saw nearly £3 million allocated to several SMEs which worked with industry-leading companies to make British supply chains cleaner and more efficient, while improving how freight is carried across rail, maritime and road transport.

Examples of ground-breaking ideas that have become reality thanks to support from the Freight Innovation Fund include Royal Mail working with Skyports to deliver mail by drones across the islands in Orkney. This is the first time ever mail is being delivered by drones in the UK, allowing Royal Mail to deliver 24 hours faster than using vans or ferries.

The Freight Innovation Fund has also supported FedEx in trialling new eCargo bikes to deliver parcels quickly in traffic-heavy city centres, helping decarbonise deliveries.

Previous funding winners have reported a collective £97 million in commercial investment from the £1.2 million Government Year 1 fund, decarbonising supply chains and supporting jobs.

Roads Minister Guy Opperman, said:

“The freight and logistics sectors are part of our economy’s backbone, ensuring supermarket shelves are stocked, hospitals receive crucial medical supplies and important deliveries are made. “That’s why, as part of the Government’s plan to grow the economy, the Freight Innovation Fund is supporting businesses to innovate and back skilled UK jobs.”

The Freight Innovation Fund Year 3 follows £200 million to roll out hundreds of zero-emission trucks and lorries as well as freight charging infrastructure to help set road freight on the path towards net zero.

The fund was originally launched in 2022 as part of the Government’s Future of Freight plan, the first-ever plan for Government and industry to work closely together to deliver a world-class, seamless flow of freight across the UK’s roads, railways, seas, skies and canals.

This Fund builds on previous Government initiatives designed to support increased research and development in the freight industry. Previous technologies supported in other funds include:

  • Hypermile – introduced an artificial intelligence programme that offers real-time feedback to help lorry drivers save fuel
  • Fishbone Solutions – launched a programme that uses vibrational data from rail freight wagons and artificial intelligence analysis to determine whether the wagons are working correctly
  • CGA Simulation – developed a tool that simulates urban environments to predict the best place where to build new infrastructure and improve logistics

Connected Places Catapult’s Chief Executive Officer, Erika Lewis, said:

“The UK’s freight sector plays a major contribution to our economy, but there are many opportunities worth exploring to improve efficiencies and environmental performance associated with the movement of goods. I am excited to see what new ideas and technologies companies taking part in the Freight Innovation Fund Accelerator come up with, and I encourage SMEs to come forward.”

Delivered by Connected Places Catapult, the Freight Innovation Fund will give SMEs access to technical and business support from the organisation.Other measures to help bolster the UK’s haulage and freight sectors include £31 million in joint Government and industry investment to improve truckstops and working conditions for lorry drivers by providing more parking spaces, better welfare facilities and safer rest areas.

Alex Brown, Director at Skyports Drone Services, said: “The Freight Innovation Fund Accelerator, alongside the work with Royal Mail, was a key proof point we could speak to during our capital raise process to demonstrate the progress we were making with our drone delivery business.

“Importantly the work with Royal Mail in the Orkney Islands is still ongoing demonstrating how a catalyst like the Freight Innovation Fund Accelerator can result in lasting products and services.”

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