Awards, contracts & appointments

06.12.18

Rail Sector Deal: Three new Midlands pilots launched to help SMEs and share data

Given its position in the “heart of the rail industry,” the Midlands will play host to pilots on a new rail data platform, a scheme supporting high-potential SMEs, and a skills programme to stimulate apprenticeships.

The DfT said the region will lead on the three separate pilots in order to move forward the ambitions of the Rail Sector Deal, launched today by industry partners.

Data-sharing pilots

The data-sharing platform will help the Midlands Engine paint a complete picture of rail user experience, needs, and appetite.

It forms a key part of the sector deal’s main ambition to improve the safe use and sharing of data in order to boost operations and customer experience. The government eventually hopes that a national data platform will enable information to be spread widely across different modes of transport and infrastructure systems in order to enable innovation and customer-focused products.

The industry will also be tasked with developing ways to incentivise and stimulate innovation around the use of data through an “evolving ecosystem.” However, this will be implemented in a phased approach rather than all at once, with small local pilot schemes starting in the East Midlands.

“To support this, as part of the sector deal, the government will be responsible for promoting the role of ‘Platform Sponsor’ – managing the fundamental rules of the data sharing platform and its capabilities, working closely with train and freight operating companies as well as new entrants to the market,” the report said.

“This will ensure the platform is managed and used securely, responsibly and ethically, while maintaining confidentiality, protecting information that is genuinely commercially sensitive.”

Up to £5m of existing innovation funds will be reallocated over three years, to be match-funded by the industry. There is a potential for the RDG, RSSB, UKRRIN, and Transport Systems Catapult to collaborate on developing the platform.

Helping SMEs get to the next level

The second pilot will help high-potential SMEs in the supply chain “to get to the next level.”

The Midlands-led pilot will kickstart the change needed to make the deal a reality, specifically in relation to practical activities that can harness collaboration between the sector and the government.

The trial will see industry providing strategic guidance and support to SMEs in order to help develop their people.

“Building on strong foundations, the Midlands has the potential to deliver much more for the railway and for the UK,” explained the report. “The challenge is to build on existing expertise whilst developing new technologies and products, becoming more efficient, attracting more investment and delivering a strong, sustainable and high-value economy.”

As part of the pilot, partners from across the Midlands’ aerospace, rail, and automotive sectors will come together with data and digital companies from the UK and overseas in order to increase the number of SMEs in the supply chain and support greater levels of innovation.

“Through regular collaboration, the Rail Sector Deal can develop skills within SMEs, helping them grow their businesses and provide the opportunity to develop of new products and services for future railways,” said the report.

Involving SMEs in apprenticeships

In order to support the government’s apprenticeship ambitions, Midlands partners – facilitated by Rail Forum Midlands – will trial a pilot of shared apprenticeships and schools engagement, which will hopefully encourage SME involvement in shaping the skills requirements and deliver the message of “rail as a dynamic career choice for a new generation of learners.”

The shared apprenticeship programme aims to increase the number of SMEs recruiting apprentices, the amount of apprenticeships offered, and the impact and coordination of regional schools engagement activities.

“The lessons learned from this process will enable industry and the government to roll out a tested programme elsewhere in the UK,” the DfT explained.

Investment and innovation in rail in the Midlands will be central to next year’s TransCityRail Midlands, an exclusive event for SMEs and businesses to network with the supply chain. Don’t miss your chance to attend, visit the website here.

 

Image credit: Ross Jukes Photography

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