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Virgin begins hunt for innovating rail start-ups

Virgin Trains has this week called on the next generation of innovative start-up businesses to pitch original ideas to solve a set of rail industry challenges.

The company has partnered with PlatformX – a business accelerator programme to discover the next big innovators who will sculpt the future of rail.

Start-ups have been invited to submit their pitches to win a chance to work with Platform X. Successful applicants will then benefit from being mentored by senior Virgin Trains management, specialists and experts who will help them develop their ideas take to market.

Applicants must choose to take on one of four challenges. The first regards ensuring customers have a great end-to-end journey from the train and beyond, and another challenge is to help Virgin understand its customers and ‘what makes them tick’.

Virgin has also tasked the start-ups to work out how the company can tackle operational challenges when disruption hits, and has called on existing businesses who are already transforming the lives of its customers and how their ideas can be applied to the rail industry.

Applications close on 28 May, and shortlisted entries will be asked to pitch their ideas on 6 June for a place on the programme which starts on 3 July. By August, selected businesses will be invited to test their ideas with in-market trials, which Virgin says could open the door for official partnerships later down the line.

Warrick Dent, safety and operations director at Virgin Trains on the east coast, said: “As part of the Virgin Group, we are always on the lookout for ways to do things differently.

“Platform X gives us a great opportunity to invite ideas from technologists and entrepreneurs about how we could transform rail journeys in the future and in return provides start-ups with an opportunity to grow and scale their business.”

Dent also stated that Virgin was excited to hear from the best and brightest innovators about how the company can do things differently.

“We hope we can help take some of these start-ups with us on a journey that will help make their ideas become reality,” concluded the Virgin director.

And Mei Shui, managing director of Virgin StartUp, said the company had a history of empowering and supporting those looking to create positive disruptive change – something which Platform X will look to extend.

“The apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree where Virgin StartUp is concerned,” she stated. “We’ve so far supported over 1,800 entrepreneurs and from our experience this community is one of the most vibrant in the business world.”

The launch of Platform X follows Virgin getting to work on the bodyshells for its Azuma Class 800s that will enter service on the east coast in 2018.

And last month, the operator announced that it would be partnering with Stagecoach and French operator SNCF to prepare a joint bid for the HS2 WCP franchise.

Top Image: Chris Watt

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Noam Bleicher   17/05/2017 at 08:21

How about innovations like seats lined up with windows, or overhead luggage racks large enough to actually store luggage, Virgin?

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