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Future Labs heralds new innovation era for UK rail as LNER, Northern, Southeastern and TransPennine Express join forces

30th April 2024, London, UK – Today, four UK rail operators – LNER, Northern, Southeastern and TransPennine Express – announce the launch of an ambitious innovation programme, Future Labs. This is the first initiative that sees four UK train companies join forces to generate industry-wide change. The programme will pioneer innovation across areas including enhancing customer experience, performance and operational excellence, and developing people and talent.

Future Labs will give cutting-edge technology providers the opportunity to apply, test, and demonstrate their solutions in real-world environments over a 12-week period. The startups, scale-ups, and innovators will be granted invaluable access to mentors and subject matter experts from across the train operators. These experts will work with the candidates to bring their products and services to life to address common and emerging opportunities in the rail industry. In addition, the candidates will have insights into industry data, and access to resources and testing environments.

The programme is jointly led by Innovation leads at the four train operators, along with Network Rail: Ross Welham (LNER), Christine Lefroy-Owen (Northern), Daniel Taylor (Southeastern) and Colin Kelly (TransPennine Express).  

Speaking on the unique collaboration, Danny Gonzalez, LNER’s Chief Digital and Innovation Officer, said: “Through the collaboration of the four rail operators, we are taking the next necessary step towards embracing new technologies. Some of the greatest leaps forward in the rail sector have come through this open approach to innovation, and this new programme marks a significant moment in generating strength of expertise and access for technology companies looking to break into the industry.”

Together with the rail industry experts from the four train operators, Future Labs will be run by partner L Marks, leveraging its expertise in corporate innovation to deliver the programme and support candidates throughout the 12-week programme. Applicants are being invited to respond to 3 industry-led challenges, with an additional category which is open to innovators which can offer solutions beyond the briefs: 

  • Performance & Operational Excellence: Solutions to enhance and complement operational performance and back-office processes to give staff the tools they need to bolster their processes
  • Enhancing Customer Experience: Innovation that helps to improve passenger safety, boost accessibility, and keep customers up to date through their preferred communication channels
  • Developing People & Talent: Developing unique approaches to strategic resource planning, supporting staff wellness and personal development, and promoting diversity to attract the next generation of talent

Daniel Saunders, Chief Executive at L Marks, added: “We’re delighted to announce our new partnership with the train operating companies to launch Future Labs. The programme is set to be unrivalled in terms of the depth of access, data, insight and mentorship. It will be a truly unique opportunity to develop new solutions, embedded in the real-world rail environment, where the complexities can put the value of new innovation to the test. This presents huge potential for technology innovators across regions and around the world to pioneer the next step in rail innovation and collaboration.”

Faizan Patankar is CEO & Founder of AI platform Amygda, a startup that achieved breakthrough success in rail: “The rail industry provided us with invaluable access to experts and depot environments, that allowed us to validate and develop our product. The unique opportunity to generate our own insights was instrumental in building an understanding of the nuances of rail industry operations. Given the excellent experience it was to work with mentors and rail experts, the expanded scale of the programme with four operators is a really exciting opportunity for innovators looking to disrupt an industry.”

The deadline for applications to the programme is 16th June 2024.

Learn more and Apply Here

About Future Labs

Future Labs is a joint innovation programme from four UK rail operators – LNER, TransPennine Express, Northern, and Southeastern – dedicated to transforming the rail industry through open, pioneering and proven innovation. Through the collaborative efforts of the rail operators, and in partnership with Network Rail, Future Labs will drive programmes that address critical opportunities for the sector; giving innovative businesses live environments and unrivalled mentorship to trial their solutions for the advancement of passenger and employee experience, performance and operational excellence.  Future Labs 2024 applications are now open, discover more at:

LNER, Northern, Southeastern, and TransPennine Express are wholly owned subsidiaries of DfT OLR Holdings Limited (‘DOHL’), the Public Sector Owning Group. 

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