Network Rail is considering a Dragons’ Den-style pitch event for firms dreaming up innovations for the railway sector.
The move is part of the railway infrastructure provider’s action plan to increase the involvement of small and medium-sized firms in its big spending plans.
The action plan reveals Network Rail is looking at setting up a small team to focus on promoting innovation from the supply chain.
It is exploring developing a Dragons’ Den approach, inviting smaller suppliers and contractors to pitch innovative ideas to its panel of experts.
The panel would be able to grant funding of £10k, £20k or £30k to develop or pilot good ideas with a positive business case.
Network Rail also plans to raise the number of ‘meet the supplier’ events to four a year and establish SME route champions.
Network Rail said the plans would include breaking up work into SME-size parcels where possible and establish a new simplified PQQ for low value/risk tenders.
It is also publishing a briefing pack on how to work with Network Rail.
The rail infrastructure company is committed to achieving the Government target of one-third of annual expenditure to be spent via small and SMEs by 2022.
Its action plan to involve more smaller companies was drawn up after consultations with the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, Rail Industry Association and Railway Industry Contractors Association.
In the last three years, Network Rail has increased its expenditure with SMEs achieving 25.61%, 26.78% and 30.4% respectively.
Ken Black, commercial director, route service contracts & procurement, said that Network Rail was ahead of plan and on-track to meet the 2022 target.
Although he warned that with every year the targets had become increasingly difficult to achieve.
“We recognise that we must now step-up our breadth and depth of activity and range of actions, ” said Black.