Government launches £2m transport location data competition

Location data, Geospatial Commission

The Geospatial Commission has partnered with Innovate UK to create a new £2m competition which will look at how location data can spark innovation and support the future of mobility for the UK. Abigail Page, head of innovation and skills at the Geospatial Commission, explains

Smarter mobility solutions, underpinned by location data, will enable us to make the most of our transport networks by boosting capacity, reducing environmental impacts and decreasing travel times.

This competition aims to stimulate commercial innovation to help create geospatial solutions to our transport challenges and support the future of mobility.

The competition has four themes:

  • Mobility as a service: To help better integration of transport modes.
  • Active travel: Creating safer ways to enable active travel.
  • Supply chains: Helping better distribution, storage and delivery.
  • Boosting capacity: Increasing efficiency of transport networks.

What is the role of location data in shaping the future of mobility?

The opportunity to shape the future of transport and mobility is one of nine opportunity areas identified in the UK Geospatial Strategy, launched earlier this year.

The strategy explains that: “Location data and technology will help improve transport services, enabling the efficient delivery of new networks and transport corridors.

“It will help connect people with the jobs they need, the goods and services they want, and the places they want to go.”

The recent pandemic has driven an increased awareness of the opportunities for location data in transportation. The importance of better understanding of mobility using location data has supported the UK across a range of areas – from adaption of public transport systems to increasing resilience in global supply chains. The new circumstances are driving a demand for innovative approaches to using location data intelligently in ways that we haven’t seen in the past.

New technologies, such as Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs), represent an exciting new development in the future of mobility, promising a safer, more efficient and affordable way to travel.

Such technologies depend heavily on the ability to collect, manage and analyse huge amounts of data in real-time. This data could be used beyond just the operation of CAVs and deployed across a network to intelligently manage traffic at scale.

Enabling innovation, such as through this competition, is one of four key missions of the UK’s Geospatial Strategy. The focus of this competition is to develop new ideas that can ultimately be deployed in the UK to drive productivity and sustainable economic growth.

How can we ensure that it’s possible to apply innovation from small businesses in this sector?

We want to not only stimulate new ideas for the application of location data to enable future transport and mobility solutions in the UK but from the outset, ensure there is a vision as to how the innovation can be adopted by the public sector and support better public outcomes.

Our approach through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition will bring together innovators with public sector challenges. Projects should identify a UK public sector strategic customer (such as a local authority) to sponsor each solution.

Additionally, projects should demonstrate reasonable use of geospatial data and technology.

SBRI competitions are a tried and tested method for encouraging innovative solutions to public sector challenges. They provide a dedicated procurement route for innovative SMEs who might not otherwise have access to funding opportunities or be crowded out by larger firms.

Examples of projects that could be awarded funding include:

  • Sensors that can support safer transport.
  • Making better use of kerbside space for deliveries.
  • Near-miss identification tools to identify risk early on.
  • Geospatial tools to inform balanced infrastructure investment that supports social and environmental outcomes.
  • Apps that integrate a range of location data sources to provide new joined-up services to transport users.

How else will the Geospatial Commission work with businesses to ensure commercial innovation in transport and mobility?

In parallel to the competition, the Geospatial Commission has established a new Transport Location Data Taskforce, chaired by Dr Steve Unger, independent commissioner. This taskforce is bringing together businesses in the transport sector who have an interest in exploiting location data, with expert location data organisations and public sector officials.

The taskforce will support the Geospatial Commission to look at six use cases – electric vehicles, connected and autonomous vehicles, road infrastructure, freight infrastructure, drones and route optimisation.

The questions the taskforce will consider include:

  • What type of data is required to support each of these use cases?
  • Does the data already exist, in which case where does it sit?
  • Are new datasets required, in which case how can we incentivise the necessary investment in them?
  • How can that data be made available in a manner that meets the principle that data access is FAIR – findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable?

Most importantly, the commission wants to understand what it is that the government needs to do to make progress, and what it can leave to the market. The commission does not want to get in the way of innovation; we do want to understand what we need to do to support it.

How to get involved

The competition is open to UK-based organisations from a business of any size, academic organisation or higher education institute, charity, public sector organisation or local authority, public sector research establishment, research council institute or a research and technology organisation. The deadline for applications is midday on 4 November 2020.

For more information about the competition visit: Government launches £2m transport location data competition



Abigail Page

Head of innovation and skills

Geospatial Commission

Twitter: @GeospatialC

LinkedIn: Geospatial Commission


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here