Funding competition 5G enabled road and rail transport trials in the West Midlands

UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £2.5 million to support development of 5G enabled transport innovations.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


West Midlands 5G (WM5G) will work in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). Together they will invest up to £2.5 million in innovation projects that develop a new service or product. These must improve road and rail operational efficiency, provide better-connected transport or improve traveller experience. Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will manage the competition process.

This competition will support projects up to 18 months in duration.

Your project must trial using 5G in the West Midlands.

You must consult with Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) if the transport monitoring and control system:

  • needs to integrate with the physical road or rail networks
  • requires data

You must also ask TfWM to provide a letter of support for your project. You can contact them through their website or by calling 0121 200 2787.

You must consult with a mobile network operator (Vodafone, O2, BT or 3) to confirm 5G functionality is available for your project in the West Midlands.

You must include a public or private communications network provider or a communications integrator as a partner or a sub-contractor in your consortium.

The competition closes at midday 12pm UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type


Project size

Projects up to 12 months long can claim up to £500,000 in grant funding. Projects of between 13 and 18 months long can have up to £1 million in grant funding. There is no maximum on total eligible project costs.

Who can apply

State aid

Any UK business claiming funding must be eligible to receive state aid at the time it is confirmed you will be awarded funding. If you are unsure please take legal advice. For further information see our general guidance.

Your project

If your project is:

  • up to 12 months long you can claim up to £500,000 grant funding
  • between 13 and 18 months long you can claim up to £1 million grant funding

The grant you claim as a consortium must be no more than 50% of the total eligible project costs. There is no maximum on total eligible project costs. If you request funding of more than 50% of the total eligible project costs or the grant requested exceeds the maximum allowed your application will be ineligible.

Projects must start by 1 August 2020 and end by 31 March 2022.

If your project’s duration falls outside of our eligibility criteria, you must request an exemption and provide justification by email to at least 10 days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your request.

We are expecting to fund a portfolio of projects (see the ‘Scope’ section).

We are expecting to fund up to 5 projects, and at least one of them must focus on traveller experience.

Your project must be an effective collaboration, as defined in the ‘Funding’ section.

Lead organisation

To lead a project your organisation:

  • must be a UK registered business of any size
  • must collaborate with at least one other UK registered business
  • can collaborate with UK registered research organisations, public sector organisations or charity
  • must include a communications network provider (public or private) or communications integrator as a partner or sub-contractor
  • must carry out its project work in the UK
  • must intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

If your project needs to integrate with the physical road or rail networks or needs data from the transport monitoring and control system, you must:

  • consult Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) before submitting your application
  • include TfWM as a consortium partner or upload a letter of support from TfWM

Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.

Project team

To collaborate with the lead organisation your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business, academic institution, charity, public sector organisation or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • carry out its project work in the UK, using only UK-based employees
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • be invited to take part by the lead applicant
  • enter its costs in the Innovation Funding Service

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding.

Multiple applications

Any one UK registered business can lead on one application and collaborate in a further 2 applications.

If a UK registered business is not leading an application, it can collaborate in up to 3 applications.

Academic institutions can collaborate in up to 3 applications.

Communications operators and service providers can collaborate on any number of applications.

All projects must not rely on any other project submission.


We have allocated up to £2.5 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

Organisations that are primarily engaged in commercial or economic activity (known as selective advantage) as part of the project must ensure their request for funding does not exceed the limits defined below. This includes organisations that typically act non-economically but for the purpose of this project will be undertaking commercial or economic activity.

We are expecting collaborative experimental development projects. ‘Effective collaboration' means collaboration between at least 2 independent parties. The goal must be either:

  • to exchange knowledge or technology, or
  • to achieve a common objective based on the division of labour where the parties jointly define the scope of the collaborative project, contribute to its implementation and share its risks, as well as its results

Contract research and provision of research services are not considered forms of collaboration.

For collaborations between businesses no one business partner can take more than 70% of the total eligible project costs. For collaborations between businesses and research organisations, the research organisation must bear at least 10% of the total eligible project costs and have the right to publish their own research. As a consortium, total project grant funding must not exceed 50% of your total eligible project costs. This is regardless of the individual partners’ grants claims.

Of that 50%, individual partners can claim grant funding up to:

  • up to 60% of your eligible project costs if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 50% if you are a medium-sized organisation

up to 40% if you are a large organisation If your project requests funding of more than 50% of the total eligible project costs your application will be ineligible.

Find out if your business is a small or medium sized enterprise in the EU definitions.

To see which costs are eligible read the project costs guidance.

Grant funding will be provided by WM5G to the lead partner, for distribution to their consortium members. Prompt payment terms will be agreed between consortium partners.

The research organisations in your consortium undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 20% of the consortium’s total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them.

This competition provides state aid funding under article 25, ‘Aid for research and development projects’, of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). It is your responsibility to make sure that your organisation is eligible to receive state aid.

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to develop new services and products that improve road and rail operational efficiency, provide better-connected transport or improve traveller experience.

Your project proposal must:

  • focus on one of the use cases listed in the specific themes
  • include 3 months of user or product testing in your chosen location in the West Midlands using the live 5G environment

Your project proposal must demonstrate either:

  • how 5G is essential to developing your new service or product or
  • how 5G offers a significant enhancement compared to current mobile communications

You must aim to demonstrate improvements, including benefits derived from 5G bandwidth, latency, security or reliability in one or more of the following:

  1. Operation of roads to reduce congestion and improve safety.
  2. Improvements in air quality, including CO2, PM and NOx.
  3. Train, tram or bus services to enhance business operational efficiency of the service offered.
  4. Better joined up public transport services (bus, train or tram) to provide more cohesive travel solutions and transport information across the modes of transport, improving the experience for travellers.

Your project must demonstrate business viability and focus on exploitation. It must concentrate on showing the benefits of the product or service in a measurable way.

You must align your project to the Midlands Future Mobility initiative, the West Midlands CAM Lab or the ConVEx UK connected mobility data exchange. Your application must describe how you will achieve this.

We are looking to fund a portfolio of projects across road, rail and traveller experience with a variety of use cases and technologies (see ‘Specific themes’).

Specific themes

Your project must focus on one or more of the following use cases.


  • traffic control intervention to minimise congestion (and emissions) using advanced traffic light control, roadside warnings, or live and adapted route planning
  • roadside parking and flexible kerbside to make parking easier and enable deliveries, to minimise congestion (and emissions) and improve delivery scheduling
  • vehicle to infrastructure (V2I), including service monitoring or road condition and hazard safety messaging including sharing of car data

Rail and tram:

  • big data, including systems data monitoring and passenger counting
  • station management and providing interactive customer information
  • new transport services such as very light rail (VLR)

Traveller experience:

  • an urban culture tour for tourists in towns and cities enabled by easy access to one or more modes of transport, such as connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV), taxi, tram or bus using an established or scalable service platform
  • a travel experience enhancement that supports improvements in personal productivity, social interaction or wellbeing (intellectual learning, physical or mental comfort)
  • enhanced passenger or employee security and personal protection or hazard avoidance across any mode of transport

Research categories

We will fund feasibility projects, industrial research projects and experimental development projects, as defined in the general guidance.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding:

  • media or broadcast projects
  • vehicle-to-vehicle safety critical use case trials

10 March 2020
Birmingham briefing event
16 March 2020
Competition opens
18 March 2020
London briefing event
15 May 2020 12:00pm
Competition closes
3 June 2020
Invite to interview
15 June 2020
Interview panels in Birmingham (week beginning)
30 June 2020 8:45am
Applicants notified

Before you start

You must read the general guidance for applicants before you start.


If your written application is successful you will be invited to attend an interview, where you must give a presentation.

Before the interview, by the deadline stated in the invitation email, you:

  • must send a list of who will attend the interview
  • must send your interview presentation slides
  • can send a written response to the assessors’ feedback

List of attendees

Agree the list with your consortium. Up to 6 people from your project can attend, ideally one person from each organisation. They must all be available on all published interview dates. We are unable to reschedule slots once allocated.

Presentation slides

Your interview presentation must:

  • use Microsoft PowerPoint
  • be no longer than 20 minutes
  • have no more than 20 slides
  • not include any video or embedded web links

You cannot change the presentation after you submit it.

Written response to assessor feedback

This is optional and is an opportunity to answer the assessors’ concerns. It can:

  • be up to 5 A4 pages in a single PDF or Word document
  • include charts or diagrams


After your presentation the panel will spend 40 minutes asking questions. You will be expected to answer based on your application form and the assessor feedback from the written stage.

What we will ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Project details.
  2. Application questions.
  3. Finances.

1. Project details

This section sets the scene for the assessors and is not scored.

Application team

Decide which organisations will work with you on the project. Invite people from those organisations to help complete the application.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and duration. Is the application a resubmission of any public sector?

Research category

Select the type of research you will undertake.

Project summary

Describe your project briefly and be clear about what makes it innovative. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

Public description

Describe your project in detail, and in a way that you are happy to see published. Do not include any commercially sensitive information. If we award your project funding, we will publish this description. This could happen before you start your project.

We reserve the right to publish the description (and ask for permission to publish the consortium partner list) of all successful and unsuccessful applications. This is to help inform the market of the types of project and parties interested in 5G innovation.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.


Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope it will not be eligible for funding.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any website links in your answers.

Question 1. Need or challenge

What is the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity behind your innovation?

Describe or explain:

  • the main motivation for the project
  • the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity
  • the nearest current state-of-the-art, including those near market or in development, and its limitations
  • any work you have already done to respond to this need, for example if the project focuses on developing an existing capability or building a new one
  • the wider economic, social, environmental, cultural or political challenges which are influential in creating the opportunity, such as incoming regulations, using our Horizons tool if appropriate

Question 2. Approach and innovation

What approach will you take and where will the focus of the innovation be?

Describe or explain:

  • how will 5G enables or enhance your product or service
  • whether the Midlands Future Mobility CAM Lab or ConVEx project is aligned to your project activity, and if so how
  • how you will respond to the market or customer need, challenge or opportunity identified
  • how you will improve on the nearest current state-of-the-art identified
  • whether the innovation will focus on the application of existing technologies in new areas, the development of new technologies for existing areas or a totally disruptive approach

Please describe or explain:

  • the technology readiness level development during the project
  • the 5G communications you will be using
  • if the project and product requires only a commercial 5G service whether you will need a private 5G installation
  • if a private network is deployed, how it will be integrated into the commercial 5G network
  • the nature of the outputs you expect from the project (for example report, demonstrator, know-how, new process, product or service design) and how these will help you to target the need, challenge or opportunity identified

You must submit one appendix including a Gantt chart of activities and the test plan to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 3. Team and resources

Who is in the project team and what are their roles?

Describe or explain:

  • whether you need a communications network provider (public or private) or communications integrator as a partner for 5G communications support
  • how Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) will be involved if interaction with the network or data access is required, and evidence of an agreement through a letter of support
  • the roles of all team members from each organisation
  • the skills and experience of all members of the team that are relevant to the project you are proposing
  • the resources, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access them
  • the details of any vital external parties, including sub-contractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
  • the current relationships between project partners and how these will change as a result of the project
  • any roles you will need to recruit for

You must submit an appendix to describe the skills and experience of the main people working on the project, a RASIC chart and a letter of support from TfWM. It must be submitted as a single appendix in a PDF format and can be up to 4 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 4. Market awareness

What does the market you are targeting look like?

Describe or explain:

  • the markets (domestic, international or both) you will be targeting in the project and any other potential markets
  • the size of the target markets for the project outcomes, backed up by references where available
  • the structure and dynamics of the target markets, including customer segmentation, together with predicted growth rates within clear timeframes
  • the target markets’ main supply or value chains and business models, and any barriers to entry that exist
  • the current UK position in targeting these markets
  • the size and main features of any other markets not already listed

If your project is highly innovative, where the market may be unexplored, describe or explain:

  • the size of the potential market
  • how your project will try to explore the market’s potential

Question 5. Outcomes and route to market

How are you going to grow your business and increase your productivity into the long term as a result of the project?

Describe or explain:

  • how this project fits with your current product, service lines or offerings
  • how it will make you more competitive
  • your current position in the markets and supply or value chains outlined, and whether you will be extending or establishing your market position
  • your target customers or end users, and the value to them, for example why they would use or buy your product
  • your route to market and how long it will take beyond this funding for the product to reach market maturity
  • how you are going to profit from the innovation, including increased revenues or cost reduction
  • how the innovation will affect your productivity and growth, in both the short and the long term
  • how you will protect and exploit the outputs of the project, for example through know-how, patenting, designs or changes to your business model
  • your strategy for targeting the other markets you have identified during or after the project

If there is any research organisation activity in the project, describe:

  • your plans to spread the project’s research outputs over a reasonable timescale
  • how you expect to use the results generated from the project in further research activities

You must submit a financial projection on a timeline as an appendix to support your answer. It must include the further investment required to introduce the product to market beyond this public funding and an approximate revenue forecast. The appendix must be a PDF and no longer than one A4 page and the font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 6. Project benefit and impact

What impact will the project have after it is complete?

Describe or explain how your project will achieve one or more of the following:

  1. Improvements in the operation of roads to reduce congestion and improve safety.
  2. Improvements in air quality including CO2, PM and NOx
  3. Improvements in train, tram or bus services to enhance the business operational efficiency or service offered
  4. Better joined up public transport services (bus, train, tram). This will provide more cohesive travel solutions and transport information across the modes of transport, improving the experience for travellers

Describe the benefit measures and estimate the level of benefit as a result of the project in the following areas.

Economic benefits:

  • jobs creation or increase in GDP
  • congestion reduction
  • operational improvement in service or business
  • improvement in reliability of service or product
  • more accessible transport, creating wider appeal

Environmental and safety benefits:

  • cleaner (less emissions or waste)
  • less noise
  • fewer accidents or severity of accidents reduced

Experience benefits:

  • tailored information or improvement in interactions between modes of transport
  • support for new transport services
  • improved journey time

Please provide details of the assumptions behind your forecast and how you would track the benefits.

Question 7. Project management

How will you manage the project effectively?

Describe or explain:

  • the main work packages of the project, indicating the lead partner assigned to each and the total cost of each one
  • your approach to project management, identifying any major tools and mechanisms you will use to get a successful and innovative project outcome
  • the management reporting lines
  • your project plan in enough detail to identify any links or dependencies between work packages or milestones

You must submit a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 8. Risks

What are the main risks for this project?

Describe or explain:

  • the main risks and uncertainties of the project, including the technical, commercial, managerial and environmental risks, providing a risk register if appropriate
  • how you will mitigate these risks
  • any project inputs that are critical to completion, such as resources, expertise or data sets
  • any output likely to be subject to regulatory requirements, certification, ethical issues and so on, and how you will manage this

You must submit a risk register as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 2 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 9. Added value and benefits

What impact would an injection of funding from WM5G have on the businesses involved?

Describe or explain:

  • if this project could go ahead in any form without public funding and if so, the difference the public funding would make, such as a faster route to market, more partners or reduced risk
  • the likely impact of the project on the businesses of the partners involved
  • why you are not able to wholly fund the project from your own resources or other forms of private-sector funding, and what would happen if the application is unsuccessful
  • how this project would change the nature of R&D activity the partners would undertake, and the related spend

Question 10. Costs and value for money

How much will the project cost and how does it represent value for money for the taxpayer?

Describe or explain:

  • the total eligible project costs and the grant you are requesting in terms of the project goals
  • how each partner will finance their contributions to the project
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer
  • the balance of costs and grant across the project partners
  • any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project

Question 11. Cyber security and data management

How will your project keep the communications between devices secure and how will you assure data management and GDPR?

Describe or explain:

  • what measures and standards you will adopt to ensure secure communications over 5G
  • how you will make sure the data sources will be reliable and protected
  • what data will be collected, how it will be stored and any retention procedures you will apply
  • how GDPR will be managed, what protocols you will use during the project and any considerations for a fully verified product in use
  • what cyber security experience the project partners have
  • what cyber security procedures you will use

3. Finances

Each organisation in your project must complete their own project costs, organisational details and funding details. Academic institutions will need to complete and upload a Je-S form. For full details on what costs you can claim please see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information


West Midlands 5G (WM5G) is a new organisation set up to accelerate the benefits of 5G throughout the region. It is wholly owned by the West Midlands Combined Authority. WM5G will:

  • support projects which speed up the launch of 5G networks
  • test, prove and scale up new 5G services

The funding will be provided by WM5G and form part of the Urban Connected Communities (UCC) programme and the Transport for West Midlands Future Mobility Zone programme.

Network operator 5G coverage

We recommend you hold detailed discussions with network operators to check 5G will be available for testing your product or service. There are rough guides regarding availability on the operators’ websites:






Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) will make 3 separate days available for consultation while the competition is open. You can contact them through their website or by calling 0121 200 2787.

These dates will be published during the briefing events.

Extra help

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

If you need more information, email us at or call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 between 9am and 5:30pm, Monday to Friday.

Help from Enterprise Europe Network

Upon award you may contact your local Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) Innovation Adviser, who will discuss the growth opportunities for your business and offer bespoke business support. This service forms part of your Innovate UK offer under our commitment to help UK SMEs to grow and scale. It is only available to SMEs.

Need help with this service? Contact us