Funding competition SBRI: Thistle Assistance app to help people with disability use public transport

Organisations can apply for a share of £150,000, including VAT, to develop a mobile app to help people with disabilities when travelling on public transport.

This competition is now closed.

Register and apply online

Competition sections


This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition.

The aim is to:

  • identify and understand in detail the challenges faced by disabled people when travelling
  • explore how much these affect travel plans and choices about which modes of transport to use
  • develop a door to door journey planning and wayfinding solution that helps alleviate them

The solution must be a mobile application that shows:

  • relevant route information in a clear way
  • which travel option to use
  • where and when to get on and off
  • what to do if lost

It must also allow a carer to see where the user is and communicate with them.

This competition is funded by the Can Do Innovation Challenge Fund.

This is phase 1 of a potential 2-phase competition. A decision to proceed with phase 2 will depend on the outcomes from phase 1. Only successful applicants from phase 1 will be able to apply to take part in phase 2.

Phase 1: research and development contracts, feasibility study

In the first phase research and development contracts will be awarded to demonstrate technical feasibility of the proposed solution.

We expect to fund up to 5 projects. The assessors will consider fair value in making their evaluation.

We would welcome bids that bring together a consortium of sector specialists.

Phase 2: research and development contracts, prototype development and testing

The successful phase 1 applicants will be able to apply for up to 2 R&D contracts. Up to £150,000, including VAT, will be allocated for each contract, in order to develop a prototype and undertake field testing in Scotland for up to 12 months.

Funding type


Project size

We expect total project costs to range in size up to £30,000, including VAT, for each organisation. Projects must start by 1 April 2019, end by 1 October 2019 and can last up to 6 months. (Text update 5 Nov 2018: project start and end dates corrected.)

Who can apply

To lead a project, you can:

  • be an organisation of any size
  • work alone or with others from business, the research base or the third sector as subcontractors

You must be fully compliant with UK government privacy and data protection legislation.


A total of up to £150,000, including VAT, is allocated to phase 1.

Applications must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively for R&D services. R&D can cover solution exploration and design. It can also include prototyping and field-testing the product or service. R&D does not include:

  • commercial development activities such as quantity production
  • supply to establish commercial viability or to recover R&D costs
  • integration, customisation or incremental adaptations and improvements to existing products or processes

Your proposal

We are seeking to identify and understand in detail the challenges faced by disabled people when travelling. Your project must explore the extent to which these affect disabled people’s travel plans and choices of mode of transport. It will develop a door to door journey planning solution that helps alleviate these barriers.

In phase 1 you must develop a proof of concept for a multi-user interface mobile application.

Your solution must:

  • benefit people with several disabilities, for example sight impairment, hearing impairment, mobility issues and dementia
  • incorporate journey planning and wayfinding features
  • allow third parties (such as family, emergency services and transport providers) to track the user in case of difficulty
  • allow the user to ask third parties for help
  • include multi-modal transport options
  • adapt the user interface depending on disability
  • be expanded later to benefit people with disabilities not included in the initial launch

We are particularly encouraging applications that include:

  • a simple, engaging and easy to understand interface
  • innovative use of visual, audio and physical (such as vibration) approaches to communicate with the user
In phase 2 the chosen project teams will develop a working example ready to test.

Project types

Phase 1: technical feasibility study

This means planned research or critical investigation to gain new knowledge and skills for developing new products, processes or services.

Phase 2: prototype development and evaluation

This may comprise prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing and validation of new or improved products, processes or services in environments representative of real life operating conditions. The primary objective is to make further technical improvements on products, processes or services that are not substantially set.

In phase 1 the supplier will work closely with the stakeholders to develop a solution. The outcome of phase 2 will be a prototype of the solution.

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that cover:

  • standard travel planning for people without a disability
  • journeys that do not use public transport, such as by private car
  • research only

12 November 2018
Competition opens
7 December 2018
Edinburgh briefing event (previously 26 Nov 2018)
2 January 2019 12:00pm
Registration closes
9 January 2019 12:00pm
Competition closes
1 March 2019
Applicants notified
29 March 2019
Phase 1 contracts awarded
29 March 2019
Feedback issued

Before you start

To apply:

  • register online using the green button
  • read the guidance for applicants for this competition
  • consider attending one of the briefing events listed in ‘Dates’
  • complete and upload your online application to our secure server

We will not accept late submissions. Your application is confidential.

A selected panel of experts will assess the quality your application. Please use Microsoft Word or your application will be ineligible.

Background and further information

About SBRI competitions

SBRI provides innovative solutions to challenges faced by the public sector. This can lead to better public services and improved efficiency and effectiveness. SBRI supports economic growth and enables the development of innovative products and services. It does this through the public procurement of research and development (R&D). SBRI generates new business opportunities for companies and provides a route to market for their ideas. It also bridges the seed funding gap experienced by many early-stage companies.

About SEStran

The South East of Scotland Transport Partnership (SEStran) is the statutory Regional Transport Partnership for the South East of Scotland. SEStran encompasses 8 local authorities: City of Edinburgh, Clackmannanshire, East Lothian, Falkirk, Fife, Midlothian, Scottish Borders and West Lothian.

Within the partnership area there is a huge diversity of transportation issues, from urban congestion to rural public transport and from ferry ports to airports. SEStran aims to address these issues and work towards a more sustainable and efficient transport network.

SEStran contributes to a varied range of transport projects and events as well as partnership working with various organisations.

Travel planning websites, satellite navigation and apps, such as Google Maps and Traveline, are now commonplace. People use them every day to make their commute, shopping trip or recreational journey planning easier. However, for those in the community with disabilities (seen and unseen), learning difficulties or degenerative conditions such as dementia they can be difficult to use or understand.

SEStran identified this need through the development and implementation of BustrackerSEStran and the Thistle Assistance Card. It plans to combine journey planning and disability awareness into one easy to use and versatile platform.

Further help and information

You can find information on how to enter this competition in the invitation to tender document, which is available for download on our secure site after registration.

Questions related to the particular requirements of this competition should be addressed directly to Keith Fisken, Business Partner, SEStran,

If you want help to find a project partner, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

If you need more information, call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email us at

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