Published on in TransportInnovation

Innovation is the lifeblood of any industry.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to predict, or to generate innovation. Sometimes to think outside the box you need to get outside the box: leave the office and try something new.

This is the intention behind our presence at InnoTrans, the International Trade Fair for Transport Technology.

It’s an event which never fails to deliver on the innovation front, as it brings together the brightest and best from across the global transport industry.

But this year promises to be extra-special, with the inauguration of the InnoTrans HackTrain. This hackathon will ask 80 elite innovators to come up with their solutions to the challenges shaping the future of the rail industry.

In this blog post, I’ll give you a rundown of what to expect at HackTrain 2018 – and why it matters.

Getting on-board with innovation

The Hacktrain event kicks off on the 18th of September, and sees innovators – a combination of developers, designers and entrepreneurs – being asked to design and develop answers to real-world challenges put forward by some of the biggest names in the transport sector.

There’s no better way to stimulate fresh thinking than with a bit of competition, and HackTrain is a more than a little bit competitive. There will be some big prizes: the winner receive a travel voucher to anywhere in the world.

Participating in the hackathon will also bring innovators into contact with the most established names in transport.

Network Rail will be there alongside the UK’s Department for Transport, presenting challenges to solve and providing access to the data that will spur on the innovators, and from elsewhere in Europe both Deutsche Bahn and SBB will be represented among others.

Finding innovation in new places

Fujitsu is known for innovation: it’s the lifeblood of our organisation. This is why we’re so excited to be sponsoring HackTrain.

By throwing participants into new environments and making them race against the clock, we’ll take them outside of their comfort zone and (hopefully) spark some original thinking. It’s something that is hard to replicate in an office environment. No matter how creative and free-form your workday might be, it’s difficult to be inspired from within the confines of a routine.

A hackathon also supports innovation by enabling you to tap into a new group of thinkers – the next generation of developers.

The perspective of this group is incredibly valuable – don’t forget that the world’s largest tech companies (HP, Google, Microsoft and Apple) all started from humble beginnings. We hear from the existing IT community all the time, which is partly why we need to go an external voice to get something new.

HackTrain is also innovative in its very approach to the transport sector, because it transcends the national boundaries that can often constrain us.

It’s all about buying into innovation, and sending it out to a really wide audience. What could be better?

Getting ready to be a HackTrain mentor

There’s another thing making me excited for HackTrain: the fact that I will be a mentor for this year’s participants.

Mentoring is a really important part of creating the right ecosystem for innovators to be able to innovate.

The innovators themselves benefit hugely from working with us through the hackathon. Currently there is a drop-off between coming up with creative ideas and getting them into production. We can bridge this gap, and help bring their brilliant ideas to market.

Fujitsu is a world-leader when it comes to plugging innovation into an existing infrastructure – and it’s this expertise that participants at HackTrain (including, hopefully, my mentees) can utilise.

Laying tracks for future of transport

The transport sector faces an interesting problem: we’re struggling to digitise as quickly as other industries.

According to the Digital Inside Out report, transport lags behind all other industries in terms of adopting digital tech. Just 39% of people indicated that they feel satisfied with transport’s digital services.

Clearly the industry needs to accelerate its process for creating digital solutions, in order to get them to the customers more quickly.

This is what makes events like HackTrain so important. They help bring about creative solutions at a much faster pace, because they allow transport companies and developers to come together and bounce ideas and insight off one another.

This year, I’m thrilled to be part of the process. It will be an honour to help shape the solutions the hackers come up with – because it’s through their ideas that we will find the future innovation of our sector.

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