The Overview

National Express Group is one of the world’s leading global transport companies. It has a fleet of over 29,000 vehicles and its customers make over 882 million journeys each year.

As part of its commitment to driving innovation and growth, National Express partnered with Alt Labs to create NXIS. NXIS a 10-week innovation programme aimed at mature start-ups or scale-ups. The purpose is to drive profitable growth, expand the business, and develop ties with local research partners, including universities and innovation hubs.

In its first year, the programme worked with 25 start-ups across the globe to improve customer experience, safety, revenue and engineering works. The results of the innovation programme delivered over £1.2m of operational cost savings in National Express’ engineering works alone.  

The Challenge

In line with a leadership change at National Express group, senior management wanted to identify better ways of enhancing culture and innovation, bringing it in line with the business growth strategy for the UK, Europe & North America.

Management was keen to find a solution that worked within their ‘Innovation Strategy’ framework. The framework aimed to formalise innovation while minimising the impact on operational resources. It targeted:

  1. Specialist Innovation Centres, to access innovative start-ups and create an environment for cost-effective trialling.
  2. University Partnerships, to increase exposure to fresh teachings and research the transport sector.
  3. Innovation teams within each business unit, to build on existing processes for innovation and enable cross-group learning and partnerships.

Ideas generated through each source was then put through further analysis and prioritised to undergo a rapid ‘test and learn’ process.

The Process

Alt Labs innovation team was commissioned to help fulfil the ‘Innovation Strategy’ goals and complete an enhanced innovation audit covering UK, Europe & North America.  

The work involved launching NXIS, a 10-week innovation accelerator programme. NXIS brought together start-ups, universities and specialists from a range of business units, including:  

  • Commercial
  • Engineering
  • Safety  
  • Customer experience
  • Digital
  • Legal
  • Procurement

The project involved introducing the participants to a culture change strategy, helping to reshape the business, avoiding risk and implementing a ‘minimum viable product’ (MVP) methodology into rapidly deploying and testing new projects and services across the National Express group.

The Results

Alt Labs successfully launched the NXIS programme across several continents, covering National Express UK, Europe and North America. In total, during the first year, NXIS worked with 25 start-ups over 2 cohorts, across the globe, to improve customer experience, safety, revenue and engineering works. National Express was also awarded a ‘Business Excellence’ award for innovation.

One of the big success stories of the NXIS programme was VERS, a start-up based in Poland which used data to identify fuel and energy wastage of £350k per annum over National Express’s UK fleet of buses and resolve the wastage with a simple switch.  

After a successful initial roll-out, National Express West Midlands extended its relationship with CitySwift and implemented the company’s data-driven scheduling and planning technology, which uses AI, big data and machine learning techniques.

By gaining insights through the platform, the company was able to make more informed decisions to match vehicle supply with passenger demand. This approach improved efficiency and reliability and led to a better overall on-board experience for customers. It also significantly reduced operating costs, saving £1.2m across the planning team.

Client Feedback

Vinay Parmar, Chief Customer Experience Officer, National Express

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