Following the University of Bath‘s announcement that its set to build a multi-million-pound specialist facility dedicated to advanced green automotive solutions and Bristol recently being one of the cities selected to test driverless cars, not to mention the hub of global and advanced aerospace and automotive engineering companies that call the South West home, the entire region is fast becoming known for paving the way with its high-tech solutions to the future of transport.

This is not science fiction we’re talking here. Impressed by this huge growth in advanced transport solutions, we delve deeper to find some of the most exciting projects being worked on in the South West.

Self-driving cars: FLOURISH and VENTURER

The possibilities for self-driving cars transforming our lives appear endless. Increased independence for the elderly and disabled, a decrease in incidents caused by drunk or distracted drivers, improved efficiency and reduced environmental impact to name just a few.

Driverless cars are being developed and tested across the world but Bristol and Bath are also playing a part with two very exciting projects – FLOURISH and VENTURER.

FLOURISH is led by researchers at the University of Bath along with many other organisations and businesses including assistive design engineering experts, Bath-based Designability, with aims to develop user-centric autonomous vehicle technology and connected transport systems to transform the lives of isolated older adults through the creation of independent travel options.

VENTURER is a £5-million 3-year R&D programme led by engineering company Atkins being worked on by a collective of companies, organisations and academic institutions to make autonomous vehicles a reality on the streets of Bristol and South Gloucestershire.

Solar balloons

Back in 2015, Bristol launched the world’s first certified hybrid solar-powered hot air balloon at the 37th Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

Although this clever balloon can run solely on energy from the sun, capturing heat from the black side of the balloon and utilising the silver side of the balloon (pictured left) to prevent that heat from escaping, it is unfortunately based in the UK where the sunshine is occasionally, ahem, limited.

Of course, being a hybrid balloon, there is a backup set of propane burners on board in case the sun disappears mid-flight!

Slide to work

catching-a-slide-minibus-across-bristolNot all solutions to the future of transport need to be futuristic or high-tech but they can still have a huge impact on congestion in our cities (and our wallets). Slide is the latest project that pinned Bristol down as the test city for its lift-share-to-work scheme.

For as little as £4, Bristol residents can book a ride to work in a shared taxi using a clever app. The app suggests a meeting point and calculates in real time the optimal itinerary for the taxi to get to the specified destination while integrating requests from other passengers that also want to travel in the same direction.

Given that the taxi can use bus lanes its users are treated to a practically stress-free and convenient trip to work whilst removing unnecessary cars off Bristol’s roads, reducing the cities air pollution levels.

Electric aircraft

The South West is known for its advanced aviation research and innovation coming from high-profile aerospace companies such as Airbus and Renishaw in addition to its collaboration amongst leading universities. Given that flying is still the most efficient way to travel long distances, it’s key to ensure research allows for greener aviation methods to allow it to remain a feasible mode of transport.

Following new ‘E-Conditions’ legislation interceded by the Civil Aviation Authority, a team of talented aerospace engineering students at the University of the West of England will be the first university in the country attempting to build and fly an electric aircraft.

This leads on from work done previously creating the ‘Eco-Flyer’ electric aircraft by a graduate and apprentice team at Bristol-based Airbus which was unveiled at Venturefest Bristol & Bath back in 2015.


Bristol is well known for being one the UK’s top cycling cities but it is now part of a pioneering new scheme to make cycle commuting even easier (even if you don’t own a bike!)

YoBike offer city rental bikes with a difference. Left unchained and ready to use without a long winded sign-up process, it’s making cycling more accessible than ever. ‘Get Around for Just £1’ is the motto of YoBike, whose adapted bikes have been dotted around the city waiting for you to download the app and get pedalling.

Tested and approved by TechSPARK employees themselves (pictured above), YoBikes offer the perfect solution to getting to work or around town without committing to purchasing and maintaining your own set of wheels.

Bloodhound SCC

Imagine getting the school run done in 20 seconds flat. This seemingly far fetched but equally pleasing thought isn’t exactly impossible given that the world’s most advanced straight line driving car, the Bloodhound SCC, is capable of reaching a whopping 1,000 MPH in just 90 seconds.

Bloodhound was assembled in Bristol and its team of daring drivers will soon attempt to use it to set a new land speed world record.

But the Bloodhound isn’t just about speed, the project also supports more than 5,700 UK primary and secondary schools with Bloodhound’s free education resources and there are over 800 schools involved in its educational outreach program in South Africa where the record will be attempted.

If you’re keen to see the Bloodhound speed to victory, its first public test runs will be held in Newquay this October. You can grab tickets on the Bloodhound SCC website.

Solar racing

The UK-based solar racing team, Solar Team Great Britain, has signed up with the Bristol-based Centre for Modelling & Simulation (CFMS) to use its Cray supercomputer to design and model a prize-winning solar car for a competition in Australia this October.

Solar Team Great Britain (pictured) also brings together design and engineering experts from the University of Bristol, the University of Bath, Airbus, Higher Education Funding Council for England, Institution of Mechanical Engineers and QinetiQ.

Similarly to Bloodhound, its team is also using the opportunity to inspire and educate students and young professionals to apply their talents into sustainability – and thereby secure the future for us all.

Want to stay on top of all the latest transport related tech in the South West? Sign up to the TechSPARK newsletter or follow us on Twitter here: @TechSPARKuk.