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Webinar presentation of the DfT’s Local Transport Air Quality Challenge Innovation Grant

KTN hosted the first of two promotional webinars on Monday 12 October coinciding with the opening for applications of the Department for Transport’s Local Transport Air Quality Challenge Innovation Grant. This webinar provided first-hand details of the process and requirements of applying for full grant funding to test novel ideas for addressing six specified local air quality ‘challenges’.

The department’s expert panel - of Iarla Kilbane-Dawe (Head of Research Delivery, Science & Research), Neil Ebenezer (Head Science & Research Unit) and David Pryke (Head of Air Quality) and Ruth Kennedy (Science & Research Unit) - specified the types of research it’s looking to support, and fielded a questions from an engaged audience of up to 61 registered attendees.

The webinar was moderated by KTN’s Craig Cook.

A video screencast of the webinar is embedded here for easy viewing. 

The presentation is summarised below, however please refer to the pdf version of the presenters slides, the Application form and Grant Specification & Evaluation Criteria as the official documentation.


Background to the competition

The Department for Transport (DfT) is, it states, working on a range of schemes to reduce transport related emissions, such as by promoting public transport choices, supporting the market for innovative forms of transport and encouraging a move to cleaner and lower carbon vehicles.

The EU Directive on Ambient Air Quality (2008/50/EC) sets legally binding limits for a range of air pollutants to protect human health. In the UK, this is implemented through the Air Quality Regulations 2010 that commits the Secretary of State to 'draw up and implement a short-term action plan' to reduce pollution levels where thresholds are exceeded.

Following the successful funding of four projects in the NO2 mitigation competition in 2014, the (DfT) is now holding a more wide ranging call for grant funding of innovative research projects in local air quality and transport challenges.

Through the Local Transport Air Quality Challenge Innovation Grant DfT is looking to support, with a broad remit, delivery of short, sharp and potentially ambitious proposals to solve one of six suggested local transport and air quality challenges, using either on-vehicle or off-vehicle methods.


Support for credible innovations to tackle air quality and transport related local air quality management challenges

Introducing the competition, Iarla Kilbane-Dawe, stated the DfT expects to offer grants, from a pool of £250,000, to fund three to six proposals for developing close to deployable ideas and concepts, that are science, technology or engineering based innovations intended to ‘tackle an air quality and transport challenge in local air quality management’.

As an extra incentive for, perhaps smaller, organisations where cash flow may be an issue, there is an option for 30% of funding to be provided in up front.

Proposals will be judged on impact. They should be novel, should support local decision making, be credible and, ideally, should have had engagement with a responsible authority (such as a local authority).

The indicative challenges cover: real-time or near real-time understanding of emissions and effects of mitigation measures; better measurement of NO2 in vehicle exhaust; smart traffic management systems to reduce polluting emissions; ways to modify driver behaviour or engine management systems that respond to air pollution; retro-fits for high mileage urban vehicles; and novel approaches in use of rapid EV-chargers to increase EV or ULEV uptake in or around air pollution hotspots, or for ULEVs to be targeted at pollution hotspots.

Neil Ebenezer added that other ideas providing a technological and innovative solution to a local air quality and transport challenge could also be considered.


Initial sift based on demonstrable impact

The DfT’s Science & Research will make an initial sift of proposals, based on ‘credibly demonstrated impact’, assessed by whether they address one or more of the six areas of interest; can be used to significantly reduce concentrations or impacts of both NO2 and PM2.5; describes a deployable solution; and has engaged with a suitable air quality managing authority.


Swift timetable for application process

Neil Ebenezer then highlighted the requirements for filling in the Application form, and the timetable:

  • Deadline for submission of applications – midnight 2nd November 2015
  • DfT panel to evaluate proposals (award of grant based on highest scoring applications according to Evaluation Criteria) – 3–17 November 2015
  • Grant award letter sent to successful applicants and unsuccessful applicants informed – by 20 November 2015
  • Deadline for grant acceptance – 30 November 2015
  • Projects commence – 1 December 2015
  • Project initiation meeting – 1 – 4 December 2015
  • Final report – 21 March 2016

The Grant Specification & Evaluation Criteria, that provides the detail requirements for the competition.


Plenty of ideas out there…

David Pryke noted the ‘incredibly’ high profile of air quality at this time, with a current Government consultation and the ‘VW experience’, so “There’s lots of pressure to solve the issue. However solutions should not be ‘draconian’; they need to be proportionate.”

“I’m sure there’s plenty of new ideas out there worthy of support, and I look forward to further conversations”.



Questions and answers covered issues around state aid, relevance to UK-based research, funding being around £50k per grant depending on quality and impact, that the call is about feasibility studies and proof-of-concepts close to deployment, the meaning of ‘relevant authorities’, what’s specifically out of scope, exposure reduction being ‘not beyond the pale’, interpretations of ‘novel’ and ‘innovative’, deployment timescales, and that technological solutions are of primary relevance to the call.

It was noted that if not in scope other ideas could be appropriate to the forthcoming DfT T-TRIG competition to be opened on 19 October 2015.

Further questions can be emailed to:research.grants@dft.gsi.gov.uk


Second chance to attend a webinar: 2 Friday 16 October

A second DfT Air Quality Challenge webinar will take place at 2pm to 3pm, on Friday 16 October should any potential applicants wish to ask further questions in person.



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