£8m competition seeks tech to rejuvenate high street

A competition has been launched to find new technology that will encourage people to shop on the high street

A competition has been launched to find new technology that will encourage people to shop on the high street.

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) has invested up to £8m in a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) project to regenerate the high street.

The competition, revealed by science and universities minister David Willetts, will look for technology that can address high street challenges, from innovative approaches to retailing, to logistics and travel management.

"Technology plays a vital role in people's everyday lives and has the ability to influence our movements and shopping habits,” said Willetts. “By developing innovations to regenerate the retail sector we will be able to breathe new life into the UK's high streets.”

Town centre vacancy rates doubled between 2011 and 2013, and the TSB stated that shoppers now spend more than 50% of their outlay away from the high street.

Online channels saw record levels of sales over Christmas 2013, with one-in-five non-food products bought over the internet in December.

The convenience of out-of-town and online shopping is currently more attractive to consumers, so the government wants to introduce new solutions in services, retailing and logistics, as well as traffic management, to breathe life back into the high street.

There is £2m available for phase one feasibility studies, which will take place over six months, with a further £6m available for the second phase to develop successful studies into 24-month projects.

"Britain's shopping culture is changing, with online shopping pushing town centres to evolve and exploit new technology to prosper and attract people to their local high street," said high streets minister Brandon Lewis.

The project will build on the £1bn support package of new tax breaks for shops and changes to planning and parking rules. 

“That investment, combined with strong local leadership, can help high streets remain at the heart of communities for decades to come,” said Lewis.

The competition is open to all organisations which can demonstrate a route to market for their solution. Applicants should register by 26 February and submit applications for phase one projects by 5 March 2014.

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