HS2 has launched a search for digital innovations to speed up the delivery of the rail-infrastructure megaproject, and will help to commercialise the most promising ideas from entrepreneurs and smaller providers.
The organisation’s Innovation Accelerator programme is seeking ways to improve construction efficiency in three key areas:
- Process automation, reducing or removing paper-based processes (pictured) to improve construction efficiency.
- Process optimisation, helping to consolidate and reorganise processes to achieve “a step change in efficiency”.
- Reducing manual operations by finding alternatives to traditional, labour-intensive ways of working.
An outline of the scheme provided by HS2 notes that large projects typically “take 20 per cent longer to finish than scheduled and are up to 80 per cent over budget”. It adds: “HS2 wants to progress towards a more standardised, consolidated, collaborative and integrated approach to the construction process.”
Applications must be submitted via the HS2 Innovation Accelerator portal prior to 18 September. Five entrants will gain backing across both the digital construction category and a simultaneous opportunity focused on entertaining passengers in stations.
Winners will receive four months of commercial and technical support from HS2, as well as rent-free working space to develop their proposal at the Bruntwood SciTech Innovation campus in Birmingham.
At the end of this development phase, HS2 will help with pitching innovations to industry investors, HS2’s supply chain and other potential customers, with the aim of securing further commercial backing or development.
The competition is the second wave of the Innovation Accelerator programme. HS2 said it received 109 applications in the first tranche of the programme, which launched on 16 June and sought new ideas focused on productivity and sustainability. Winners included ideas around 3D concrete printing and the use of drones to assist in tree-planting schemes.
HS2 head of innovation Howard Mitchell said the number of entrants in the initial phase “beat all our expectations”, and added: “The level of interest underlines the opportunity that HS2 offers to some of the most innovative and dynamic young firms in the country.”
Applicants for the programme must be UK-based, with fewer than 250 employees and annual turnover below £50m.