Driving the adoption of AI in the UK transport sector

The High Growth AI Accelerator for Innovate UK BridgeAI is a 14-week accelerator programme for UK-based startups, scaleups and SMEs to help them validate and develop responsible, ethical and desirable AI and ML deep-tech solutions.

With a specific focus on the UK’s transport sector, the programme focuses on enhancing the monitoring, automation, and optimisation of existing systems and infrastructures in the UK to align with the country’s ambitious journey toward achieving net-zero emissions. This initiative seeks to not only improve current networks’ efficiency but also contribute to reducing carbon footprints and promoting sustainable practices.

This programme is the second accelerator delivered by Digital Catapult and part of BridgeAI, an Innovate UK national programme that seeks to stimulate the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies in agriculture, creative, construction, and transport. 

BridgeAI is jointly delivered by Innovate UK KTN, Digital Catapult, The Alan Turing Institute and the Hartree Centre and funded by Innovate UK. More information about the programme can be found here.


We invite innovators to tackle specific transport commercial challenges, developed in collaboration with industry leaders; Port of Tyne, RailX, and Transport for London – the industry challenge owners for this programme.

Applicants are encouraged to choose a challenge aligned with their expertise, as each presents a distinct opportunity to make a meaningful impact on the landscape of AI and ML solutions in the transport sector.

  • Real-time monitoring challenge, in collaboration with Transport for London
  • Scheduling automation and optimisation challenge, in collaboration with RailX 
  • Container placement optimisation challenge, in collaboration with the Port of Tyne

Selected businesses will benefit from collaborating closely with industry players in the sector, access to cloud credits, technical and business expertise from our valued partners, strategic and technical guidance, holistic diagnostics, and tailored support, to accelerate their product readiness.

  • Container Placement Optimisation Challenge
    In collaboration with Port of Tyne
    Challenge Statement: How might we optimise the placement of containers in the Port of Tyne’s terminal to minimise the number of reorganisation moves needed in the facility?

    The Port of Tyne is facing a challenge regarding the efficient placement of containers within their South Shields terminal. The goal of placing containers in a particular order is to minimise the number of reorganisation moves required to retrieve a container when needed. A reorganisation move refers to the transfer of a container from one location to another to access another container. Reorganisation moves currently account for 35% of all container movements within the terminal, generating additional use on specialised equipment, fuel consumption, and carbon emissions which could be eliminated by optimising the placement of containers.

    Storing faster-moving containers at the front and higher up a container stack, and slower-moving containers further back and at the bottom, should minimise the number of reorganisation moves needed in the terminal. However, resource limitations, including time and skill constraints, lead to placement strategies being based on prior practices rather than data-driven decisions around container movement trends, potentially rendering them outdated.

    The Port of Tyne employs TBA Autostore as its terminal operating system (TOS), allowing users to set up input strategies specifying container locations based on characteristics such as type, weight, cargo, destination, shipping line, and customer. However, the port lacks forecasting tools for predicting container movement trends. Therefore, the port is seeking to solve this challenge in collaboration with SMEs that develop solutions in storage logistics optimisation using ML or AI.

  • Scheduling Automation and Optimisation Challenge
    In collaboration with RailX
    Challenge Statement: How might we automate and optimise the processes of rail and road bookings made via RailX’s online platform in response to late vessel arrivals?

    Automating and optimising processes in the UK’s transport systems and infrastructure is imperative to maintaining the secure and efficient transportation of goods across the country. Focusing innovative solutions in the transport space on decarbonised growth while maintaining this efficiency is particularly important to enable the nation’s journey toward net zero.

    RailX is an online platform facilitating rail freight bookings for intermodal goods, with a focus on the UK’s deep-sea ports. Despite 6 million annual container movements, only 10% are currently moved by rail. The platform aims to support SMEs and promote a modal shift from road to rail to facilitate efficient and low-carbon freight across the UK. However, delayed vessel arrivals at UK sea ports lead to manual rescheduling, impacting 40% of container movements and causing delays and congestion.

    RailX seeks to overcome these challenges by optimising and automating bookings, responding to late vessel arrivals or other factors like diversions and adverse weather conditions in real-time. The goal is to build a solution that will enable the platform to schedule and reschedule bookings efficiently, considering cost, pricing, and the lowest-carbon solution.

  • Real-Time Monitoring Challenge
    In collaboration with Transport for London
    Challenge Statement: How might we foster more reliability and independence for bus users with accessibility needs by giving them real-time information on wheelchair priority space occupancy?

    For the safe and effective transportation of goods and people throughout the UK, it is imperative to monitor, maintain, and upgrade the nation’s transport systems, assets, and infrastructure. Developing and adopting solutions using ML and/or AI for the monitoring and integration of existing assets is a valuable tool stream of innovation to explore for both the private and public sectors. 

    Transport for London (TfL) currently faces a challenge in providing timely data for customers with accessibility needs. Specifically, the availability of wheelchair priority spaces on London buses is unreliable, the spaces often being occupied by prams, luggage, standing passengers, or other wheelchair users, hindering planning for disabled passengers and causing extended journey times.

    To address this, TfL aims to develop a system that detects and communicates the real-time status of the wheelchair priority space, prioritising smartphone and journey planning app integration. Being able to identify prams and other objects in the priority space is a secondary goal.

    TfL has investigated solutions with CCTV analytics and stereoscopic sensors to address this challenge. While some trials are currently ongoing with CCTV analytics, TfL is looking to run further trials with similar or other technologies in the market to find a solution that could be implemented across its entire fleet.

Why apply?

Participants will benefit from computational power, strategic guidance, holistic diagnostics, tailored support, and a showcase platform to accelerate the readiness of their AI/ML solutions.

Industry access and expertise

Collaborate with industry challenge owners to address prominent challenges in the transport sector and benefit from their transport networks and expertise.

Computational power access

Subject to availability and third-party terms, get access to computational power and credits provided by the technology partners.

Holistic diagnostics

Diagnostic sessions with experts from the Digital Catapult team and industry challenge owners to address current AI/ML technological, commercial and strategic needs.

Tailored support

Hands-on support to accelerate data and product readiness; and to develop and improve product, technical, business and ethical roadmaps.

Workshops and masterclasses

Group sessions covering diverse topics, including data readiness and maturity, regulatory compliance, investment readiness and ethical best practices.


Exclusive demo day to present your progress to transport industry representatives, potential investors and customers.

Q&A session

We are holding a Q&A session during the application window. Please select a timeslot now

The upcoming sessions are:

  • 8 March 2024
  • 11 March 2024
  • 12 March 2024

They are intended to be informal, open, and accessible to anyone who wishes to participate in the programme, regardless of their background or experience level. They will not have an impact on the judging of your application.

Who should apply

The programme is inviting applications from UK-registered startups, scaleups and SMEs that:

  • Have existing or new AI-enabled services or AI-integrated infrastructure solutions that can demonstrate to solve one of the challenges of the call
  • Have strong technical teams
  • Have available data and an immediate need for computation
  • Operate in monitoring, intelligent surveillance, and predictive maintenance

(See minimum requirements in the FAQs)

Key Dates

  • Open call opens – 14 February 2024
  • Open Call closes – 13 March 2024 at 23:59
  • Briefing Webinar – 20 February 2024
  • Q&A Sessions– 23 February, 1 and 8 March 2024
  • Notification of shortlisted projects and invitation to interview – 3 April 2024*
  • Interviews – 9-10 April 2024
  • Notification of successful projects – 11 April 2024*
  • Contracting – 15 – 26 April 2024
  • Programme start date – 22 April 2024
  • Programme end date – 26 July 2024
  • Kick-off programme event – 24 April 2024
  • Final programme event – TBC*

*Digital Catapult will endeavour to provide as much notice as possible to applicants/participants should any changes arise.

Selection criteria

Applications will be assessed and scored equally against five criteria. All applications must have an AI/ML use case to take part in the programme but we encourage applications that wish to integrate any other advanced digital technology.

Relevance and feasibility

The applicant should demonstrate their solution can tackle the challenge selected and the company has the appropriate technical expertise to deliver the solution.

Business strategy

The applicant should be able to articulate the company’s business model that drives their AI/ML solution implementation and commercialisation.

Data and code readiness

The applicant should demonstrate that their company has the necessary data ready and has an implementation plan that requires immediate access to computational power.

Ethical impact

The applicant should exemplify a responsible use and understanding of the impact of their AI/ML solution and a strong commitment to ethical AI practices.

Growth potential

The applicant should be capable of identifying clear goals and demonstrating their solution has the potential to scale after the programme.

Scoring criteria

The scoring criteria will be assessed based on statements in the areas above. Each criterion will be scored on a range from 0 to 5.

0 being an “Unacceptable or No submission” score for each criterion and 5 being an “Excellent” score for each criterion. This scoring will be applied to all applications and will be equally weighted (20%).

Selection & application process

  1. Applicants check they meet the programme’s specific requirements.
  2. Applicants fill out their application form through the platform Skipso. Applicants will need to complete the application form by 23:59 on 13th March 2024.
  3. Applications judged and shortlisted
    • Applications will be initially screened for eligibility, followed by assessment based on selection criteria by the Digital Catapult team, resulting in the selection of a shortlist.
    • The scoring
  4. Interview day and selection
    • After the assessment of applications, companies will be notified of the status of their applications. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to an interview with Digital Catapult and the relevant Industry Challenge Owners.
    • During the interview, applicants will have the opportunity to present their ideas and address any questions posed by the judges.
    • Following the interviews, the panel will deliberate and select the final cohort.
  5. Contracting
    • Successful applicants will be notified and provided with a standard Programme Agreement for review. These contracts are standard and not negotiable. We do try to ensure these contracts are fair and reasonable.
    • Invitation to a programme kick-off will then follow provisionally on the completion of this agreement.
FutureScope is delivered by Digital Catapult, the UK authority on advanced digital technology.