3D printing and automated drones among HS2 start-up ideas

HS2 Ltd has issued a second call for tech start-ups and innovative SMEs to apply to its “Innovation Accelerator” programme after the first tranche attracted 109 applicants.

Ideas that caught HS2 Ltd’s attention include 3D concrete printing and using automated drone technology to assist with the planting of seven million trees along the HS2 route.  

HS2 Ltd is now looking to recruit five more small firms with fresh thinking on how to optimise digital solutions for building HS2, and how future HS2 passengers will best be able to spend their time at stations while waiting for trains.

The winning five entrants will join the winners from the first tranche, which focused on productivity, the environment, and the circular economy.

The online application portal is open at It shuts on 18 September.

The Innovation Accelerator programme will provide commercial and technical support and rent-free Birmingham-based working space to the successful entrants, allowing them to develop their proposal. After six months, solutions will be showcased and pitched to industry investors and HS2’s supply chain.

The successful enterprises will be revealed in the autumn.

Howard Mitchell, HS2 Ltd head of innovation, said: "We received more than 100 applications from innovative tech start-ups and SMEs to join Cohort One of HS2’s Innovation Accelerator programme, which beat all our expectations.

"The level of interest underlines the opportunity that HS2 offers to some of the most innovative and dynamic young firms in the country.

"I’m therefore extremely positive about the prospects for Cohort Two, and new thinking on how we build Britain’s new high speed rail network, and enable passengers to make best use of their time in our stations."

Photograph: augmented reality at Old Oak Common Station, March 2020

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