- Second round concept funding awarded to ‘ground-breaking’ ideas
Innovation teams from across the UK have been successful in securing funding from the second round of the ‘Innovation in Railway Construction’ competition.
Funded by the Department for Business and Trade in the UK Government in partnership with Innovate UK, the competition has been running since 2022 and invited teams to propose, deliver and demonstrate innovation in railway construction.
All projects are due to be delivered at the purpose-built Global Centre of Rail Excellence facility, currently being built in South Wales.
In the first phase of the competition organisations were awarded funding for a feasibility study on their project. From those a group of teams have now been successful in securing funding to take their ideas to concept stage at the GCRE facility.
In both phases the competition is being supported with £7.4m of public funding. Successful projects awarded funding include self-healing concrete, novel ground surveying techniques, new digital twin and drone technologies as well as next generation digital signalling.
GCRE Limited Chief Executive, Simon Jones, said: “It’s fantastic to see these ground-breaking ideas funded through the Innovation in Railway Construction Competition so that they can be taken to the concept stage at the Global Centre of Rail Excellence site.
“The ideas we have seen come through the competition give us a glimpse of what tomorrow’s rail infrastructure can be – greener, more reliable and more cost effective. Through the competition we are helping to accelerate the development of the best ideas to see if we can, ultimately, bring them into operation more quickly on the UK rail network.
“I’m delighted that we will be doing that development work at the Global Centre of Rail Excellence. From the outset, GCRE was conceived as a place where cutting edge innovation and R&D could be done to make our rail network stronger, more effective and help us get to net zero. This competition highlights the transformational opportunity that GCRE can offers and the commercial demand for the facilities we are providing here.
“I want to congratulate all the fantastic and talented teams that have taken part. They have shown creativity, ingenuity and real skill in their ideas and I can’t wait to get to work on bringing them to life at GCRE.”
Mike Noakes, Head of Rail at the Department for Business and Trade in the UK Government said: “The UK Government is delighted to support these fantastic project ideas through the second round of the Innovation in Railway Construction Competition.
“With this funding we are helping to future proof our railways. From a human-in-the-loop digital twin to tethered drones; from self-healing concrete to swarm robotics for tunnelling – these projects could have a significant and positive impact on the railways of tomorrow. Saving time, carbon and taxpayers’ money, the competition brings together fantastic examples of innovation with the means to prove them in the real world.
“That is why the Department for Business and Trade is not only providing funding support for the building of the new Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE) in South Wales; it is also funding cutting edge projects that will help strengthen our railways for tomorrow, driving forward a more sustainable railway and a net zero future for our industry.
“Critically, the innovations and new technologies developed on the GCRE site will also offer new export growth potential as companies and start-ups look to commercialise the new ideas they are developing at the world class facility across Europe and the wider world.”
Head of Innovation at GCRE, Kelvin Davies, said: “It’s fantastic to take the next, important step in the competition and fund these exciting projects. The projects will be taken to the concept stage at GCRE where they can be refined and developed to prove that they have a viable commercial future on the UK rail network.
“The ideas we have seen come through the competition are as exciting and creative as we could have hoped for and prove the value of the funding the UK Government is making available.
“At the Global Centre of Rail Excellence we want to build on this collaboration and use the world class facilities for rail research, testing and innovation we are developing here to host more of these exciting competitions.”
When it opens, GCRE will be a facility providing world class research, testing and certification of rolling stock, infrastructure and innovative new technologies that will fill a strategic gap not just in UK rail, but across Europe and the Middle East.