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‘Groundbreaking’ UKRRIN partnership officially launched

A “groundbreaking” partnership between the rail industry and universities has officially been launched this week.

The partnership, the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN), will see the rail industry and eight universities work together to deliver four world-class centres of excellence, which will cover rolling stock, infrastructure, digital systems and testing.

UKRRIN is the result of a successful £28m bid to the Higher Education Funding Council of England to create four rail centres of excellence, backed by a commitment from the industry to invest over £60m in research, development and innovation over the next 10 years.

It is hoped that it will give the industry access to world-leading facilities and skills in a range of areas, supporting research, development and innovation for new technologies and products.

Directors from the universities involved wrote about the new centre in RTM’s June/July edition last year, where they outlined the plans – at the time still in their relative infancy – for UKRIIN.

The network is expected to support rail sector capacity to develop and deploy new technologies, as well as deliver a “step change investment” in rail innovation through a network of UK-based research and testing centres.

UK rail productivity and performance are expected to “radically increase” by delivering transformational innovations and accelerating its uptake, and new relationships will develop with the SME enterprise supply chain and wider transport sector.

Industrial partners will support the four centres of excellence to deliver world-leading research from inception to market application.

The centres are expected to enable industry to deliver new products and technology to the market even faster, using purpose-built development, simulation and testing facilities.

Rail minister Jo Johnson 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.”

Director of the Birmingham Centre for Rail Research and Education at the University of Birmingham, Professor Clive Roberts, who wrote about the new network for RTM last year, added that UKRRIN gives universities and rail 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,” continued Roberts.

Jo Binstead, head of innovation at Siemens Rail Systems and chair of the UKRRIN steering group, added: “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.”

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