Branson's start-up business bid signals railway revolution

Sir Richard Branson has launched a first class scheme designed to "change the face of rail travel".

Tuesday, 13th June 2017, 11:53 am
Updated Thursday, 15th June 2017, 8:40 am
Virgin Group Founder Sir RichardBranson and Nicola McGuiness-Brown, Head of Virgin Trains East Coast innovation Fund, discuss Platform-X.
Virgin Group Founder Sir RichardBranson and Nicola McGuiness-Brown, Head of Virgin Trains East Coast innovation Fund, discuss Platform-X.

East Coast regional operator Virgin Trains and Virgin StartUp have coupled up to create unique collaboration Platform-X accelerator programme offering talented start-ups from our area a platform to flourish and transform the tracks.

Sir Richard seeks "very best disruptive innovators" amounting to next generation of entrepreneurial railway revolutionaries.

Virgin Group Founder Sir RichardBranson launches Platform-X

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The two Virgin companies have teamed up to identify and inspire start-ups with a series of four real innovation challenges to win chance to take part in Platform-X.

Those who are successful will benefit from access to funding for in-market trials through £25 million Virgin Trains East Coast Innovation Fund as well as mentoring from Senior Management Team at Virgin Trains East Coast, who will be able to help develop go-to-market strategies.

Start-ups are invited to apply via with ideas of a product or service tackling one of four challenges:

# Ensuring customers have a great end-to-end journey to and from the train and beyond

Virgin Group Founder Sir RichardBranson launches Platform-X

# Help Virgin Trains understand more about their customers and what makes them tick

# How innovation can help Virgin Trains tackle operational challenges when disruption hits

# How ideas that are already transforming the lives of customers could be applied to the rail industry

Virgin Group Founder Sir Richard said: “Business is at its best when pushing boundaries and disrupting the status quo.

"I’m proud to see both Virgin StartUp and Virgin Trains coming together with the ambition to change the face of rail travel for those up and down the East Coast. We are all capable of innovating, and should be encouraged to do so whenever possible.

"Even the most simple ideas can revolutionise standards, I’m excited to see what solutions are put forward to our teams. Good luck everybody!”

Nicola McGuiness-Brown, Head of the Innovation Fund at Virgin Trains on the East Coast, commented: “As a Virgin company, we are here to disrupt the industry and we need entrepreneurs across the UK to help.

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

"We’re really excited about hearing from the brightest and best innovators about how we can do things differently, and we hope we can help take some of these start-ups with us on a journey that will help make their ideas become reality.”

Speaking about Virgin StartUp’s involvement in the project, Managing Director Mei Shui said: “Virgin has a history of empowering and supporting those looking to create positive disruptive change. The apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree where Virgin StartUp is concerned. We’ve so far supported over 1800 entrepreneurs and from our experience this community is one of the most vibrant in the business world.”

Those shortlisted will be invited to pitch their ideas on June 21 to secure their place on the programme, which starts on July 3. Selected start-ups will be invited to test their ideas with in-market trials, which could pave the way for future partnerships with Virgin Trains.