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20 Jul 2017

British Steel playing important role in £92 million rail research project

British Steel is playing an important role in a partnership between the rail supply industry and eight universities which has secured a £92 million funding package to establish the UK as a global centre for railway excellence.

The venture – part of the newly-created UK Railway Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) - has won £28.1 million of 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 and the funding will be boosted by £64 million of support from 17 industrial partners including British Steel, Alstom, Siemens and Bombardier Transportation.

Peter Smith, British Steel Managing Director Rail, said: “We are delighted to be working with our partners on this vital research initiative which will further enhance the UK’s reputation as a world leader in rail transport.

“Our research and development and rail technology experts have worked closely to support the bid and it’s exciting to know that, in partnership with our industrial and academic colleagues, British Steel will continue to play a leading role in creating and making products to improve rail networks across the globe. This is vital in making rail transport the preferred choice for its customer base – be they the travelling public or freight operators.”

The funding will be used to create three linked world-class centres of excellence:

  • 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 Newcastle and Loughborough universities. 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.

Infrastructure is a key part of the project and it will see the University of Sheffield and University of Huddersfield partnering with British Steel in this work.

The 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.

With these world class centres of excellence, the UK rail supply industry will be able to develop world-leading new technologies and products for trains, railway systems and infrastructure that will deliver a better, more reliable and efficient railway.

Dr David Fletcher, Director of the Rail Innovation and Technology Centre at the University of Sheffield, said: “This is an exciting collaboration for academia and industry. The University of Sheffield will play a key part in this research, using our expertise in railway infrastructure to power the future of railway innovation in the UK for years to come.”

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 today means this will continue.

“Through our Industrial Strategy and £4.7 billion 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."

Dr Iain Roche, Head of Innovation at HS2 Ltd, said: “HS2 will be a transformative project for the UK rail sector. It will require world leading innovative approaches to delivering infrastructure projects alongside cutting-edge design.

“The formation of this UK network is great news for the sector and I’m absolutely sure it will help us bring the innovation required for HS2 to become reality.”

Darren Caplan, Chief Executive at the Railway Industry Association, said: “We have been delighted to help bring our members together in an unprecedented cross industry collaboration to secure this funding which will, for the first time, provide the ‘open to all’ innovation space which our industry has lacked.

“We look forward to UKRRIN supporting suppliers, large and small, to catalyse the developments which will help secure the future of the UK rail supply chain.”

The initiative is being supported by a range of clients and stakeholders including Network Rail, HS2 Ltd, Transport for London, Rail North and the Department for Transport.