Unleashing Transport Innovation in the UK

In the final of a three-part series of blogs, CEO Paul Campion looks at the latest government initiatives which are helping break the deadly embrace of investment light service models and risk averse procurement.

In my last post I described some of the forces that are slowing the adoption of new technologies UK transport services companies.

The opportunity can be briefly described this way: if the full weight of UK public sector procurement could be combined with proactive regulation to support and encourage the development of improved transport services based on new technologies the UK transport services sector could take global leadership.

The UK transport sector is very fortunate now, in that the UK Government identified the future of mobility as one of the four ‘grand challenges’ in the Industrial Strategy published last year.

The government has also made a strategic goal to help the UK to increase its research and development investment from the present level of 1.7% of GDP to the OECD average of 2.4% and beyond. One of the policies it has implemented to help this is the ‘Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’ (ISCF) which offers a competition-based way to co-fund industrial innovation.

At the TSC we believe that this can be a way to escape the ‘deadly embrace’ of innovation-resistant procurement and investment-light services business models. We believe that a series of ‘missions’ can be defined that link collaborations of innovative services companies (and universities) to the challenges that local and regional authorities have.

The ISCF funding can help the companies to stand up demonstrations of innovative solutions that could then be procured. If this could be done, then the industry could be supported to accelerate innovation and deliver better outcomes to citizens and the economy.

Once these innovative solutions are demonstrated, the companies involved would have a reference implementation that they can use to spread the benefits to other authorities in the UK, and as a base for exporting their services to other countries.

What is more the government has recently announced the ‘Strength in places’ fund which intends to support innovation in meeting the needs of cities and regions in the UK. This is a perfectly complementary for of support than could potentially be used in the same way.

Can this all work? Well, no doubt there are many trials and tribulations ahead on the road to success but at the TSC we believe that there is more than a chance; the future looks bright for the transport services industry…and for travellers.

Read the previous blog Risk, Regulation and Innovation here.

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