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Monday, July 15, 2024

LNER Futurelabs programme brings innovation to the rail industry

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London North Eastern Railway (LNER) has invited startups from across the UK to showcase their cutting-edge technologies aimed at making rail travel even better, offering the opportunity to share their tech solutions to challenges facing the industry.

Six companies reached the final stage of pitching at this year’s FutureLabs, LNER’s flagship annual accelerator programme. At a live demonstration event at York St John University attended by almost one hundred rail industry leaders and hosted by tech journalist and expert Mary-Ann Russon, they presented their pioneering ideas having addressed at least one of four key objectives:

LNER FutureLabs4.0 Objectives:

1. To encourage passengers to choose rail

2. To strengthen the sustainability of the rail network

3. To create a frictionless journey for customers

4. To explore emerging technology that pushes the rail industry to the next level

LNER’s FutureLabs enables ambitious startups and SMEs to join its 12-week programme where they receive mentoring and funding opportunities to develop and scale-up technology solutions.  The programme is now in its fourth year thanks to its continued success.

This year’s ‘Cohort Winner’, announced at the Demo Day, is Automedi. The projecthelps businesses turn plastic waste into usable products within minutes through 3D printing. This follows on from the success of last year’s FutureLabs, which helped LNER to repurpose unused estate to deploy algae bioreactors to capture carbon.

SpatialCortex Technology was awarded the 2023 ‘Collaboration Prize’ accolade, which recognises outstanding collaboration with the LNER teams. The project uses wearable technology as a bio-mechanical solution for manual handling injury risk assessment and management for rail workers. The team demonstrated the testing of its sensors with catering teams onboard LNER’s trains and analysed risks of musculoskeletal impact.

Frances Walker, Head of Digital Experience Strategy at LNER, said: “LNER FutureLabs is an important pillar in our strategy to put technology at the heart of our operations and our customers’ journey. We are really proud to support startups in providing the real-world opportunity, experience, and knowledge needed to bring these innovators’ ideas to life. Implementing new practices and ways of thinking plays a huge role in driving forward the rail industry. We are incredibly proud of the results garnered by the programme to date, and we are delighted to continue this work.”

Ethar Alali, Chief Executive Officer of Automedi, this year’s Cohort Winner said: “Being able to develop our product for the rail industry with LNER support is a truly invaluable experience. It is also hugely inspiring to see transport providers like LNER take action to adopt new methods that strengthen commitments to sustainability and responsible business.”

Other finalist projects included:

  • Fatigue Management International: Developing software which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect fatigue and mitigate the risks associated with tiredness in the workplace for critical operations.
  • Manhole Metrics: A sensor and analytics startup using sensors to monitor wastewater levels, providing insights to help reduce disruptions caused by risk of flooding.
  • TravelAI: Developing AI software which analyses behaviours of people who use transport networks, to help with creating incentives for customers and future-planning.
  • SHEDyt: Designing a real estate technology platform that can be applied to help manage maintenance across train stations.

FutureLabs has trialled many industry firsts, including real-time train tracking via an interactive map, and using computer vision to help customers with disabilities navigate stations. Further information can be found here: https://lnerfuturelabs.co.uk/

For an exclusive insight into this year’s programme, tune in to the LNER podcast special.

Image credit: LNER

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