UK Rail sector launches ground-breaking partnership between industry and universities to deliver £92m Centres of Excellence 

The UK rail sector today launches the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) a groundbreaking partnership between the rail industry and eight universities to deliver four world class Centres of Excellence covering rolling stock, infrastructure, digital systems and testing.

UKRRIN gives the rail industry access to purpose-built world leading facilities and skills in a range of areas to support research, development and innovation for new technologies and products.

The four Centres of Excellence are supported by industrial partners to deliver world-leading research from inception to market application for both the UK and global markets. These Centres will enable industry to deliver new products and technology to market faster using advanced purpose-built development, simulation and testing facilities. They will also help the UK maintain its position as a technology leader in rail on the world stage.

The key objectives of UKRRIN are:

  • Support and build UK rail sector capacity and capability to develop, deliver and deploy new technologies; 
  • Deliver a step change investment in rail innovation through a world-leading network of UKbased research and testing centres;
  • Radically increase UK rail productivity and performance by delivering transformational innovations and accelerating its uptake;
  • Develop new strategic relationships with the small – medium sized enterprise supply chain, rail industry and wider transport sector.

UKRRIN has been established following a successful £28m bid to the Higher Education Funding Council for England to create four rail Centres of Excellence, backed by commitment from the rail industry to invest more than £60m in research, development and innovation activities at these Centres over the next ten years.

Jo Johnson MP, Rail Minister, said: “We are investing in the biggest modernisation programme of our railways since Victorian times, delivering what passengers want – more frequent trains and quicker and more comfortable journeys.

“In doing so, we are utilising a range of new technologies across the network and Britain is now at the cutting edge of digital signalling, high speed transport and railway infrastructure.

“New centres of excellence, bringing together experts, universities and the wider rail industry will be essential in achieving our ambition to get all diesel-only trains off the track by 2040 as well as delivering the advanced railway network that passengers deserve.”

Professor Clive Roberts, Director of the Birmingham Centre for Rail Research and Education at the University of Birmingham, said: "UKRRIN gives universities and rail industry partners the opportunity to shape the global future of railways. This launch is the official beginning of an innovative partnership, and we look forward to reinforcing the UK as the world-leading centre of rail innovation.”

Jo Binstead, Head of Innovation at Siemens Rail Systems and Chair of the UKRRIN Steering Group, said: “The launch of UKRRIN marks a ground-breaking partnership for innovation in UK rail and a step change in industrial research investment. By bringing together leading UK universities and industry, we can ensure that developments being made through academic research can be commercialised to deliver transformative changes across our railway network.”

David Clarke, Technical Director of the Railway Industry Association, said: “The Railway Industry Association (RIA) is proud to be a key supporter of the establishment of UKRRIN, a new initiative that will bring universities together with the supply chain in a new collaborative partnership, in order to spur innovation in the sector. “UKRRIN will bring together some of the UK’s leading academics with businesses who work every day on the railway – with the potential of unlocking innovations that could radically change our rail system, to the benefit of passengers and freight services. We look forward to seeing what this powerful partnership can do in driving new thinking over the next ten years.” 

UKRRIN is being launched at an event in the Houses of Parliament this evening where representatives from the industry partners and universities will meet Members of Parliament and officials from several Government departments to brief them on their plans for developing UKRRIN and projects currently under way or in development for forthcoming innovative railway products and services. 

Notes to editors

About UKRRIN: The UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) is a powerful collaboration between UK universities and the rail industry, which aims to provide a step-change in research, development and innovation and to accelerate new technologies and products from research into market applications globally. Three academic Centres of Excellence have been established to deliver world class research, development and innovation in partnership with the UK rail industry:

  • Centre of Excellence in Digital Systems (led by University of Birmingham);
  • Centre of Excellence in Infrastructure (led by University of Southampton, in partnership with University of Nottingham, University of Sheffield, Loughborough University and Heriot-Watt University);
  • Centre of Excellence in Rolling Stock (led by University of Huddersfield, in partnership with Newcastle University and Loughborough University);
  • In addition, a fourth Centre of Excellence in Testing (led by Network Rail with their Rail Innovation & Development Centres, in partnership with Transport for London and Quinton Rail Technology Centre) has been incorporated into the Network to support the delivery of the UKRRIN objectives. 

UKRRIN is jointly funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and seventeen industrial partners (leading contributors include Alstom, Siemens and Bombardier).

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