21 Feb 2018

British Steel helps launch £92m research and innovation project

British Steel has joined its partners in the domestic rail sector in launching a £92 million scheme to enhance the UK’s reputation as a global centre for railway excellence.

The UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) has been created to accelerate research, innovation and development in new railway technologies, enabling products and services to be brought to market more quickly and efficiently.

It was launched in the Houses of Parliament last night (Tuesday 20 February) and Peter Smith, British Steel’s Managing Director Rail, said: “This is a hugely significant and exciting development for this country’s rail industry.

“The network is a ground-breaking partnership between the rail industry and eight universities and will deliver four world class Centres of Excellence covering rolling stock, infrastructure, digital systems and testing and trialling.

“We’re delighted to be involved in this project and working with our partners to ensure we further enhance this country’s global reputation for excellence and innovation in rail transport.”

UKRRIN was established following a successful £28m bid to the Higher Education Funding Council for England to establish the Centres of Excellence. It’s backed by a commitment from the UK rail industry – including British Steel - to invest more than £60m in research, development and innovation activities at the centres over the next ten years.

The launch was attended by Jo Johnson MP, Minister of State for Transport, who 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.”

The Centres of Excellence are:

  • 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);
  • 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.

Professor Clive Roberts, Director of the Birmingham Centre for Rail Research and Education added: “The University of Birmingham is renowned for its railway research, particularly in the area of digital railway systems, which is key to significantly improving the quality of railway services.

“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.”

And 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.”

Read more about British Steel's commitment to delivering world class solutions for our customers here.