Roads Minister speaks with CILT about new freight acceleration fund - CILT(UK)
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Roads Minister speaks with CILT about new freight acceleration fund

01 May 2024/Categories: Industry News, Freight Forwarding, Logistics & Supply Chain

Roads Minister, Guy Opperman, has today (1 May 2024) launched the third year of the Freight Innovation Fund Accelerator to roll out innovative tech across the industry. CILT had an exclusive opportunity to discuss the fund in further detail with the Minister today at Connected Places Catapult in London.  

Now in its third year, the Freight Innovation Fund Accelerator allows businesses to bid for a share of £1.8 million to make freight cleaner and more sustainable.

When asked about the impact the funding has had on the industry so far, Guy explained that it has been a ‘massive’ help.

According to Guy, previous winners from year 1 had reported that the £1.2 million Freight Innovation Fund generated them a collective £97 million in commercial investment.

He highlighted this type of funding for innovative technologies are revolutionising the freight industry and propelling it 70 years forward into the modern era.

Guy said: “The freight and logistics sectors are part of our economy’s backbone, ensuring supermarket shelves are stocked, hospitals receive crucial medical supplies and important deliveries are made.

“That’s why, as part of the Government’s plan to grow the economy, the Freight Innovation Fund is supporting businesses to innovate and back skilled UK jobs.”

Connected Places Catapult’s Chief Executive Officer, Erika Lewis said: “I am excited to see what new ideas and technologies companies taking part in the Freight Innovation Fund Accelerator come up with, and I encourage SMEs to come forward.”

The Government said in the first two years the fund allocated nearly £3 million to several SMEs who worked with industry-leading companies to make British supply chains cleaner and more efficient, while improving how freight is carried across rail, maritime and road transport.

Guy discussed why the funding is important to SME businesses and what new innovative technology he expects to come out of this next round of funding.

“The beauty of this Government funding is that it kickstarts small businesses into life,” said Guy.

He descried the funding as like a ‘springboard’ getting businesses to a certain level so they are able to bounce up to venture capital funding to take them to the next level.

“When companies are looking for venture capital, having government approval makes a big difference that can accelerate business and innovative growth,” Guy said.

One previous idea that became a reality from the Freight Innovation Fund was Royal Mail working with Skyports to deliver mail by drones across the islands in Orkney.

The Freight Innovation Fund has also supported FedEx in trialling new eCargo bikes to deliver parcels quickly in traffic-heavy city centres, helping decarbonise deliveries.

“In terms of technology just speaking to those at the event today has been really interesting. I spoke with a drone delivery company who said one man can control 20 drones, others are looking at different technology that can transform the way ports are run and also companies are looking at new ways to reduce carbon emissions from trucks and freight. Tech like this is going to create and support the sector on a long-term basis and something we should be very proud of,” Guy added.  

Net zero by 2050

The Government has a target to go net zero by 2050 and reduce carbon emission by 77% by 2035. We asked Guy what the biggest challenge will be to hit those targets.

He explained that we need to ensure the availability of necessary products and infrastructure, such as electric lorries, charging facilities, and exploring alternative technologies like hydrogen.

He said: “Gaining widespread public acceptance and support for the transition, requires sustained efforts from Members of Parliament, influential figures, and effective communication to make a compelling case.

“Overcoming this challenge requires a concerted and coordinated approach from the government, businesses, and the public, underpinned by a well-defined strategy, technological advancements, and effective communication and persuasion.”

From a communication standpoint, it is important the government collaborates with the industry and communicates efficiently to instigate improvements.

We also asked how communication with industry leaders, professional bodies and trade associations has been going.

Answering the question Guy mentioned he has met with organisations such as the Port of Dover, the Road Haulage Association (RHA), Confederation of Passenger Transport UK (CPT), and other freight and transport organisations.

Additionally, to connect with industry the Minister said he attends conferences like the Microlise Conference and is part of the Freight Council, which he chairs.

For more information about the freight innovation fund please click here.


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