Universities and rail industry consortium secures £92m to fund research opportunities

Research into new rail technologies

A partnership between the rail supply industry and a consortium of eight universities has secured £92m to fund research aimed at establishing the UK as a centre of global railway excellence.

The partnership – part of the newly-created UK Railway Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) – has won £28.1m funding from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) managed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).

It follows a bid successfully led by the University of Birmingham.

The funding will be boosted by £64m of support from 17 industrial partners including Alstom, Siemens and Bombardier Transportation.

The UKRPIF funding will be used to create three linked world-class centres of excellence, forming the research heart of UKRRIN, which will focus on:

–    Digital Systems – located at the University of Birmingham. It will focus on railway control and simulation, data integration and cybersecurity, condition monitoring and sensing, and improved methods for technology introduction.
–    Rolling Stock – led by the University of Huddersfield in collaboration with the University of Newcastle and Loughborough University. It will focus on high value rolling stock systems, whole life asset optimisation and through-life management, and energy management.
–    Infrastructure – led by the University of Southampton in collaboration with the University of Sheffield, Loughborough University, the University of Nottingham and Heriot-Watt University.

These centres of excellence, together with existing UK Rail Test Centres, are the foundation of UKRRIN, bringing together the UK rail supply industry and academia to undertake world-leading research and innovation in rail.

The UKRRIN will support delivery of the ambitious Rail Technical Strategy and is aligned with the aims of the Government’s Industrial Strategy.

Aided by the new global centres of excellence, the UK rail supply industry hopes to be able to develop world-leading new technologies and products for trains, railway systems and infrastructure.

Passengers are expected to directly benefit from the research leading to improved technology; a better infrastructure with increased reliability that can be more effectively managed; and new digital signalling systems that will allow additional trains to run on the network.

The HS2 high speed project will also be an early beneficiary of the world-leading research.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: “The UK’s world-renowned leadership in science, research and innovation is helping to solve a range of national and global challenges, and the breadth of the projects funded means this will continue.

“Through our Industrial Strategy and £4.7bn investment for research and development, we’re ensuring we capitalise on the great work taking place in universities across the UK and remain at the forefront of innovation.”

Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Birmingham, said: “The University of Birmingham is renowned for its rail research, and innovations in railway control, command, and communication will be the key to significantly improve the quality of railway services.

“We’re looking forward to working with research and industry partners across the world to deliver innovation that establishes the UK as a world-leading centre of rail excellence.”