UK Department for Transport commits a third of its procurement spending to SMEs


The UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) has pledged a third of its procurement budget to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as part of a government drive to build a strong, viable private sector that delivers value for taxpayers and millions of jobs.

The DfT has set out plans to level the playing field for small businesses bidding for government contracts and introduced further measures to break down the barriers for smaller companies.

In its SME Action Plan, the DfT has committed to directing a third of its procurement spending toward SMEs by 2022. As part of this pledge, the department has also awarded £700,000 (US$900,600) in Transport Technology Research Innovation Grants (T-TRIG) to support innovative transport projects, including a universal train access ramp that would help disabled people board trains more easily across the network.

This year, out of 23 innovative transport projects given a share of £700,000 (US$901,000), 14 were from SMEs with fewer than 250 staff. These projects include:

• Plextek Services (SME) – An active retro-reflector tagging system for vehicles that can bounce back a unique radar signal in order to provide exact vehicle recognition, with the information used to support intelligent and autonomous transport systems;

• City, University of London – A proof-of-concept prototype smart wind barrier for traffic and bridges that adapts to the existing weather conditions in order to maximize vehicle safety, while reducing the force on the underlying structure;

• University of Plymouth – A hydrophobic, freezing temperature sensing, and self-heating road coating material that could prevent the formation of ice on winter roads;

• Ito World (SME) – Prototype visualization tool for a multi-modal transport system through combining real-time and historic data, which will be used to provide a live, detailed, view of network performance and provide recommendations for improvement (top);

• EV Technology (SME) – An electric taxi management platform that provides live information and booking of charging stations;

• V2G EVSE (SME) – Prototype for a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) electric charging station controller that will enable optimal charging across multiple vehicles, managing energy demand, and include modular communications to provide information to a central system (above);

• Algret Innovations (SME) – Working prototype for a direct contact electric system, enabling the safe charging of vehicles on the road that spend significant idle time, such as queuing taxis;

• City Science (SME) – Big data tool set that will improve the understanding of network resilience, improve understanding of the economic impact of delays on the road transport network, and identify areas in the systems where resilience could be improved;

• Inrix UK (Large) – Traffic Signal Advisor Service (TSAS) using a machine learning approach to optimize traffic lights and reduce congestion;

• Ove Arup & Partners (Large) – Developing machine learning techniques to reduce congestion impact on the UK road network by providing road operators with a tool for predicting post-accident recovery time.

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About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).