The UK’s Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) Enabling Innovation Team (EIT) recently announced an exciting £1,000,000 innovation prize competition to spur innovation in areas that will transform the experience of rail customers, in three customer groups: regular passengers, discretionary passengers, and freight customers. The 2013 Rail Customer Experience Competition is underway and will close on July 14, 2013. We recently spoke with Angelique, Trevor, and Peter at the EIT about this exciting initiative.
Hello Team– thanks very much for speaking with us. For those not familiar with the EIT, can you tell us a bit about your work?
The Enabling Innovation Team has been set up by the rail industry’s leadership body – the Technical Strategy Leadership Group (TSLG) – to accelerate innovation. Our mission is to offer support to practical cross-industry demonstrator projects and break down the barriers to innovation, seeking out innovative ideas and proposals to help meet industry challenges.
Often innovation is held back by a circular argument that investment is needed to prove something works but there is risk aversion to investing until that something can be shown to work. Demonstration projects take innovation from a concept and out onto the railway to prove it works and make the case for further investment.
Our vision is to enable a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship across the whole rail industry to deliver growth for the British economy and a transformational change for the railway. To achieve this, our approach is to understand the challenges that the industry faces, connect potential innovators with these challenges, and where necessary, provide support to enable the innovation, including funding.
What are you looking to achieve with your competition? Can you tell us more about the problems you’re addressing and the goals you’ve set?
We want to help make a real difference for the passengers and freight customers using the railway. We have consulted widely with the UK rail industry, freight companies, and passenger organisations to understand the challenges that the industry and customers face. We identified three groups of customers who face different challenges: regular passengers, discretionary passengers, and freight customers.
Within these three groups, we have targeted a number of specific Challenges. For example, for regular passengers, including commuters, how can we minimize the impact of disruption, help personalise the passenger experience, and improve engagement between train operators and passengers via two-way communication?
The competition asks for innovative ideas to address these Challenges. The best ideas will be rewarded with financial prizes and the opportunity to secure further investment from the EIT to mature the idea.
Full details of all the Challenges are available at here.
Many government organisations would traditionally issue a RFP and/or award grants to address their needs. What prompted you to partner with InnoCentive and IXC-UK to use crowdsourcing as part of your strategy?
We recognise that innovation is not necessarily about how you solve a specific problem or introduce a disruptive capability. It is also about the way you enable problems to be brought to a wider community of innovators who were not aware of the problem or opportunity yet have a wealth of experience and good ideas.
The EIT is therefore using a number of different innovation mechanisms to enable innovation and have chosen crowdsourcing to address the 2013 Rail Customer Experience Competition because we believe this particular Challenge is suited to a methodology that embraces the widest possible community of innovators and ideas. Key to our thinking was recognition that most people have experience of the railway from a customer perspective and many have views on how it may be enhanced.
The EIT’s focus is on the UK rail industry, yet many of our Solvers are from other countries and other fields. How do you believe our non-UK Solvers can contribute and provide value? And what would you say to those who may have innovative ideas but are not entirely familiar with this industry?
We recognise that many Solvers will not have had direct contact with the UK rail industry but that all Solvers will have had the experience of being a customer, whether this is as a rail or air passenger, a user of physical services, or using the internet to shop. Many of the customer experience issues that the UK rail faces are not unique to the rail industry and we are confident that there are many good ideas out there in other sectors as service providers seek to resolve the same challenges that the UK rail faces (e.g., such as providing the customer the right service at the right time and for the right price).
We hope that the 2013 Rail Customer Experience Competition will bring out ideas that enhance the customer experience and that, in the future, many of InnoCentive’s Solvers will enjoy the benefits as customers of the UK rail!
Thank you for your insight into this exciting program. Do you have any particular advice or guidance for people as they tackle the 2013 Rail Customer Experience Competition?
We are looking for ‘off the wall’ ideas as well as proven solutions from different market sectors that, with a flash of ingenuity, could be transferred to the UK rail industry. Therefore, the best advice we can give to Solvers is to think as openly and widely as you can about ideas and innovations that address our Challenges and tackle the competition with gusto.