A £10m funding pot is available for collaborative R&D projects that will help drive down congestion by improving the end-to-end journey of freight and people.

The competition, launched by Innovate UK, is looking at proposals that enable a user to select a complete journey, whether for goods or as a passenger, from one starting point to a final end point and be offered transport options with different profiles, costs and schedules.

Innovate said transport plays a pivotal role in the country’s economy, however, network congestion and overcrowding are indicators that saturation point has been reached.

Traffic congestion, of which 40% of this gridlock is in London, is predicted to cost the UK economy £300bn over the next 16 years. It is believed that a 5% reduction is businesses’ travel on the roads alone could generate around £2.5bn of cost savings.

The UK’s increasing population is also leading to higher demand for goods entering the logistics chain. A key priority for the UK is intermodality and interoperability within freight and logistics, whereby goods can be transferred seamlessly between modes due to simple processes and the use of standard loading units, such as swap bodies.

To improve the UK’s existing transport systems, Innovate UK is focusing on two broad themes: optimisation and increasing useable capacity; and demand reduction. The 'Enhancing the end-to-end journey' competition will focus on optimisation.

Consortia comprising local authorities and service providers are expected to work together to cover at least one of the three key challenges:

  • Network and data connectivity within modes and to users – for example, economic incentives for a collaborative culture across the transport industry to promote industry-to-industry engagement and business models.
  • Infrastructure – for example, working with freight operators to find new ways to move a larger range of freight more swiftly using national and international services, including ways to address rise in e-commerce deliveries and novel approaches to freight sharing.
  • Customer interaction and experience – for example, development of personalised and profiled mobility planning, including a network focus optimised by load balancing.

Projects lasting between one and three years must be collaborative and led by a business, with small companies potentially receiving up to 70% of their eligible project costs, medium firms up to 60% and large ones up to 50%. Costs are expected to range from £250,000 up to £3m.

The deadline for expressions of interest is noon on 18 November. The second stage deadline for invited applications is noon on 21 January 2016. Applications are assessed by an independent pane of experts.

Further information and Guidance for Applicants is available online.