SBRI First-of-a-Kind (FOAK) 2022 Theme 1: Low emissions and a greener railway

This Department for Transport (DfT) funded initiative aims to accelerate innovation in the UK rail sector and enable technologies to be readily and efficiently integrated into the railway system, by delivering high maturity innovations to the UK railways. This is one of 3 Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competitions funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) to address railway priorities across 3 themes. Interested? Then feel free to contact us!

This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition funded by the Department for Transport (DfT). The aim of the competition is to deliver high maturity demonstrations of innovations to the UK railways.


Competition closes: 08 June 2022, 11:00

Applicants notified: 05 August 2022

Project start date & duration: Phase 1: 01 October 2022, up to 3 months (must finish by 31 December 2022), Phase 2: 01 March 2023, up to 20 months (must finish by 31 October 2024).


Projects must support low emissions and a greener railway, enhance rail freight, and address a range of key network performance priorities. Projects must demonstrate how proven technologies can be integrated into a railway environment for the first time, with a highly interactive and innovative demonstrator in an environment where railway customers and industry representatives can witness it as a compelling business proposition.

You must define your goals in your phase 1 application and outline your phase 2 plan, including details of a full evaluation of the cost and benefits of your proposed phase 2 activity. At the end of your phase 1 project, you must deliver a feasibility report outlining your full plans for potential phase 2 activity. Your report must identify the full workplan for the phase 2 demonstration. Phase 1 projects are technical feasibility studies, with Phase 2 projects being prototype development, evaluation and demonstration.

Specific Themes

You must address reduced carbon emissions and the impact of the railway on the environment.

Your project can focus on one or more of the following:

  • technology solutions to substantially reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) when diesel passenger trains are idling;
  • passenger trains that can be powered by the AC overhead electrification and charge a battery from the overhead wire, to then run in battery only mode on unelectrified section of a route;
  • battery or hydrogen powered freight trains.

Projects that will not be funded

  • not likely to be successfully exploited by the rail industry to deliver benefits to rail or light-rail organisations and their customers
  • do not create a significant change in the level of innovation available in the rail industry
  • not already well-developed technology at Rail Industry Readiness Level (RIRL) 5+ or do not have low technical risk
  • that cannot effectively deliver a demonstration within a live railway environment
  • do not feature a demonstration phase, offering potential customers a chance to use the innovation and give feedback
  • do not include an evaluation phase, and a plan to collect information to inform a cost or benefit analysis
  • have total eligible costs or project terms outside of the eligibility guidance
  • would directly duplicate other UK government or EU funded initiatives you have already been funded to deliver
  • are covered by existing commercial agreements to deliver the proposed solutions
  • do not address how any potentially negative outcomes, such as on the environment or society, would be managed.


Your project must involve, as a single organisation or up to 3 separate ones:

  • an owner of railway assets (for example stations, rolling stock or infrastructure);
  • an experienced railway organisation;
  • a rail organisation that has the potential to become a customer.

You must also include a potential integration partner and have a letter of support signed by a senior individual from a potential railway customer organisation. Proposals into this competition must already be high maturity at RIRL 5 or above (which is broadly equivalent to TRL6).

Funding rates

Phase 1 contracts will be 100% funded up to £60,000, inclusive of VAT, for each project lasting up to 3 months. Projects chosen to proceed to Phase 2 will have contracts 100% funded up to £740,000 for up to 20 months. Your application must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively to R&D services, including solution exploration and design. R&D can also include prototyping and field-testing the product or service. SBRI competitions involve procurement of R&D services at a fair market value and are not subject to subsidy control criteria that typically apply to grant funding.

How PNO can support you

The UK team has a strong track record in securing some of the most competitive national and European grants on behalf of its clients, with a full understanding of how a project should be presented to stand the highest chance of success. Each year in the UK alone, we are responsible for the submission of more than 100 funding applications across all sectors and priority areas. Based on this extensive experience, through careful project selection and using key insight into how a project should be best positioned, we consistently achieve success rates that are more than 5 times the typical success rates for UK national schemes and EU programmes.

Contact us for further information

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