In December last year the Education Authority (EA) launched a new ‘Smart School Transport’ competition under the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) scheme. This competition was aimed at digital solution providers to stimulate the development of innovative solutions to enable delivery of safer and more efficient home-to-school transport in Northern Ireland for approximately 90,000 children.
Bids were invited from innovative companies to develop solutions to provide cost-effective technologies, tools or processes to improve the utilisation of the EA fleet of approximately 800 buses and minibuses.
The EA was successful in securing a budget of £200,000 from SBRI to facilitate Phase 1 of the ‘Smart School Transport’ competition during which applicants were expected to demonstrate the technical feasibility and commercial viability of proposed concepts.
Following a competitive tender process, three companies: Deloittes, Kinsetsu and Analytics Engines were appointed to develop and test their concepts. The companies worked with EA staff and six pilot schools across Northern Ireland to test their concepts, and Phase I successfully concluded in March 2018, with each demonstrating that their approach was feasible.
The EA has therefore agreed to continue with Phase II of this project until December 2018, with further funding secured from SBRI. This second phase will enable selected companies to develop their concepts from Phase I into practical, implementable and financially viable solutions and to conduct further evaluation of proposed solutions in the ‘real world’ application on the EA fleet.