by Phil Marsh

Business Secretary Vince Cable opens Catapult centre

Published: 17th June 2014

Milton Keynes to be centre of UK rail innovation research facility

Business Secretary Vince Cable visited Milton Keynes on June 12 to officially open the latest innovation centre in the Government’s Catapult project. The Milton Keynes offices, just a short walk from Network Rail’s HQ will be at the centre of research for smart transport technology that will in time, transform the movement of people and goods around the world. The intention is for the UK to grab up to £90 billion of business a year in a decade.


The Transport Systems Catapult’s (TSC) ‘Imovation Centre’ will develop ideas and combine them with emerging technology bringing multi-modal journeys to more people reducing emissions.

The centre will support business growth in this potentially huge market and the intention is that the UK will become a global leader in Intelligent mobility products and services. The vision ranges from driverless vehicles, improved airport data systems to integrated logistics and something called sentiment mapping which will help shape transport development.

The centre along with the other in the series, is part of the Government’s industrial strategy which they say is a long-term plan to deliver high-skilled jobs and growth.

They said:

“Vince Cable said: “Britain has a long history of transport innovation; from the shipbuilders who paved the way for globalisation, to the railways, that underpinned the industrial revolution.

The imovation centre will ensure the UK is well placed to profit from the increased demand for high-tech transport solutions- creating jobs, supporting businesses, and driving economic growth.”

Steve Yianni, Chief Executive of the Transport Systems Catapult said: “Intelligent Mobility harnesses new technologies to create seamless journeys, where transport is smart and connected, and delays and congestions are a thing of the past. The Imovation Centre will take the brightest solutions to the most pressing transport challenges, and help make those ideas a commercial success.”

Who or what is Transport Systems Catapult?

The Transport Systems Catapult is one of a new network of elite technology and innovation centres established by the Government’s Technology Strategy Board as a long-term investment in the UK’s economic capability. Applying business-led research, Catapults help businesses transform great ideas into valuable products and services to compete in the global markets of tomorrow.

Operated by the Transport Systems Catapult, the Imovation Centre (combining Intelligent Mobility and innovation) is a world-class collaboration space for innovators, entrepreneurs, research organisations and businesses using the latest technological developments to improve the transportation of people and goods. It will also offer modelling and testing facilities, allowing new products to be properly trialled and demonstrated.

The Imovation centre is headed up by Ex Virgin Trains’ Will Whitehorn and ex Network Rails’ Steve Yianni backed by technology and transport experts.

Massive global transport market looms

The global market in Intelligent Mobility has been estimated as being worth around £900billion a year by 2025 and the Transport Imovation Centre aims to capture 110% of this for UK business. The forecast for this office is that it will directly contribute £712 million in economic value to the UK during its first five years to 2018.

During the opening event, a series of digital transport displays were given including Dr. Cable being quizzed on his journey to the event. He travelled from Twickenham to Milton Keynes by taxi and rail and his answers indicated that he was 73% satisfied with his journey.

One project will become high profile next year is the LUTZ Pathfinder programme which will bring driverless pods (cars) being tested on the pavements of Milton Keynes. The trial will see if congestion and emissions reduce. A similar test is imminent in Holland so the technology advances are now making this possible.

Other displays operating in real-time, monitored road, rail and bus operations and the centre’s state-of-the-art modelling and visualisation capabilities were demonstrated on several screens.

What is the aim of Transport Systems Catapult?

The TSC is designed to help small to medium sized businesses to turn ideas into ground-breaking technology through sharing knowledge while protecting Intellectual property Rights.

The need for real time travel information is growing and whatever mode is chosen, TSC will help improve efficiency and reducing delays at airports through the provision of cutting-edge real-time departure data, linking in to a Europe-wide information network.

It will help transporting of Stem Cells by using intelligent mobility to help save lives by combining multiple datasets to ensure stem cells are delivered to labs and hospitals within critical timeframes.

Instant Weather forecasting to help transport planners will be achieved by combining highly localised weather and transport information to improve the adaptability of transport systems when faced with extreme conditions.

The end of traffic lights?

Well, the Sensor Data Fusion project will look at using GPS technology, smart phones and in-car computers to create smarter traffic flow systems which could mean the end of traffic lights. This could also work on rail systems and was looked at by the Network Rail Chairman 48 hours earlier at a totally separate event.

Social media transport mapping

Imovation has created a Sentiment Mapping tool which collates social media and other crowd-sourced information onto a digital display so other transport users can if possible, avoid delayed services or disrupted areas. overcome transport challenges and improve end-to-end journeys.

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