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Open call

Driving a more sustainable transport network, with Sunderland City Council

Open date: Monday 19 July 2021   Close date: Sunday 19 September 2021

This unique opportunity will enable innovative start-ups and medium size businesses to work directly with Digital Catapult and Sunderland City Council. In this exciting and ambitious transport challenge set by the council, you’ll be focusing on how innovative technologies can help Sunderland better understand travel choices and mobility patterns to influence behaviour towards more sustainable transport modes.

The council is offering £10,000 to one company for a three to four month proof of concept (PoC) with the goal to trial the solution with a selected user group of employees.

The company chosen to develop the proof of concept will also receive $10,000 in AWS Credits subject to AWS Eligibility criteria. AWS T&Cs apply*

To date Digital Catapult’s IoT for local authorities (IoT4LA) programme has supported innovative technology companies to work directly with 12 local authorities across the UK. The start-ups on the programme have successfully deployed internet of things (IoT) solutions that each solve some of the UK’s major challenges. Of mutual benefit for the start-ups, local authorities and importantly to local citizens the programme has driven improvements through increased understanding and adoption of advanced digital technologies into the local regions.

This year, Digital Catapult has partnered with Sunderland City Council to help the council achieve ambitious plans to meet its carbon neutral targets by 2030, 10 years ahead of Sunderland’s city-wide target to be carbon neutral by 2040 and ahead of the UK Government target of the UK achieving net zero by 2050.

The beautiful coastal city of Sunderland is growing its reputation as a digital trailblazer and is actively exploiting the many benefits that connectivity and technology can bring to its people and businesses.

Sunderland has an ambitious Smart City vision. A modern, accessible transport system is a key component of this vision and realising the full potential of technology has an important role to play in its delivery.

For this unique challenge, the council is looking to join forces with the UK’s leading start-ups and medium sized companies. Successful applicants will need to work closely with the council and ultimately propose interactive solutions that will help them seamlessly gather useful insights on transport choices as well as understand at a deep level how patterns might correlate with other factors (for example, weather, air pollution, transport service availability – cost, number of transfers, waiting time, frequency of connections, journey time, cost, road conditions, traffic jams, parking etc.).

Why get involved?

  • Opportunity for up to six applicants to pitch their solutions to the Transport team at Sunderland City Council
  • Opportunity for one company to progress to the PoC phase to trial their solution in Sunderland
  • £10,000 on offer to the successful company selected for the PoC trial
  • Showcase solutions in December 2021 at an advanced digital technology event in London
  • Raise company profile by gaining valuable presence on Digital Catapult social platforms
  • Gain commercially valuable feedback from Sunderland City Council about the viability of the solution
  • Gain an understanding of the problems faced by the public sector and apply your solutions to real-world challenges

Who should apply?

Digital Catapult and its partners are looking for innovative startups and scaleups who have experience in the fields of data collection using advanced digital technologies, data analysis and machine learning, user-experience and interactive design, and gamification.

This may include:

  • IoT
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Augmented reality
  • Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) including speech recognition

We welcome applications from companies who have an additional level of expertise in the area of behavioural change.

Applicants must be a UK based registered limited company (or prove they have an establishment in the UK) and undertake the majority of the activity in the UK. It is expected that the majority of this work will be in the Sunderland area and so a willingness to travel to City Hall and work directly with the council (in line with the Covid guidelines as applicable) is a must.

Some useful information about Sunderland City Council and this challenge:

Sunderland City Council Sunderland has an ambitious Smart City Vision and Delivery Programme which is leading to the implementation of a number of transformational digital deployments and sustainability projects across different sectors including transport.

As part of this plan, the council is moving to City Hall at Riverside Sunderland, a new sustainable urban quarter which will host businesses, green places and new residential homes. Most of the employees (approximately 1500) currently travel to work by driving to the office. Given the new location and the council’s Net Zero targets, the council would like to understand the factors that influence their travel decision.

This information is essential for the council to inform decision making on the type of incentives or policy changes required to support a shift towards more sustainable modes such as public transport, walking or cycling.

This is just the beginning of a much larger plan focusing on behavioural change across the city. In the next 36 months, more offices will be functional in the City Hall area and the Council would like these office goers and eventually all residents to also opt for more sustainable ways of commuting.

What we’re looking for:

The council is looking for an intelligent and interactive data collection and analysis solution that can help understand users behaviour, the reasons behind residents transport choices and the influence of external factors such as traffic, weather or air pollution. The outputs of which will further support the council in developing interventions and future planning.

The solution should have an innovative and personalised user-experience design element that can enrich and motivate the engagement with the user removing the manual data input burden – for example by using ‘gamification’.

The solution should also overlay other available data sources (including open data) such as air pollution, weather, transport services availability, traffic congestion and offer an additional level of analysis around factors that influence the choice of means of transport. Please see the attached Information pack for more details.

For this, the council will be selecting companies with relevant digital advanced solutions to participate in a three to four-month PoC.

Digital Catapult will select up to six shortlisted companies to pitch their solutions with the aim of selecting one company to go through to PoC and trial with a selected user group. On selection and contract agreements, the selected company will be provided with the relevant context and any pre-existing data that they would like to build on and work closely with the council to develop the PoC.

The PoC needs to demonstrate the following:

  • Highly engaging for users
  • Scope for wider deployability across the city
  • Scalable over the years
  • Customised to address the council’s growing needs across other sectors
  • Different levels of input and access to data
  • Interoperability and integration of different data sources
  • Sustainability
  • Secure
  • Easy to use
  • Minimum maintenance for the council

Although this is a short trial, the council has ambitious plans to drive behavioural change across the city and empower its locals to embrace more sustainable transport modes in the long run as part of the city-wide Low Carbon Framework which was adopted in December 2020. The council hopes to expand the data collection from their employees to all residents to have a holistic view of the transport patterns across the city as a whole in the longer term.

To know more about the selection criteria, solution requirements, key dates, FAQs, click here

IMPORTANT: Applicants must read the programme competition terms and conditions before submitting a full application. Important legal information can be found here regarding how applications will be assessed. Submission of an application will be taken as confirmation that challenge competition terms and conditions have been read and accepted by the applicant.

Applications of successful shortlisted companies will be passed on to the council team.

Next steps and how to register

Interested companies can register their applications using the form below.

To know more about the shortlisting criteria please download the information pack here

Digital Catapult and Sunderland City Council will shortlist the applications and will invite up to six proposals for a ‘Discovery Day’ (online via Zoom) where shortlisted companies will be able to ask further questions to the Transport team and understand the challenge better.

The Discovery Day should provide all the necessary information for the top five or six companies to prepare a pitch to the council’s Transport team.

One successful company will move to the trial phase where Sunderland City Council will provide £10,000 to the company to develop a PoC and test with a user group during a three to four-month trial.

A successful trial could potentially lead to a longer engagement with the Council.

*Eligible participants will get access to $10,000 in AWS credits through AWS Activate. Companies must meet AWS Eligibility Criteria and cannot have received AWS Activate credits previously. More information is available here