Driving Innovation into the Rail Industry

26 July 2021 | Unipart Rail and University of Birmingham

A major new initiative to accelerate the development of new technologies for the rail industry was today officially launched in a virtual event.

Focussed on the Sheffield City Region (SCR) and funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the DIGI-RAIL SCR initiative will seek out and fast-track innovations that are either being developed by SMEs in the SCR, or already exist in other sectors and would deliver major benefit for the rail sector, with a focus on digital technology.

The DIGI-RAIL programme has been operating in the Greater Birmingham & Solihull, Black Country and Coventry & Warwickshire since 2018, and is now expanding into the Sheffield City Region. The programme offers support to help SMEs enter or grow their offering in the digital rail sector. Housed at the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) at University of Birmingham, the programme also provides broader access to railway specialists and leading equipment and facilities to exceed the business goal. The SCR programme is delivered in collaboration with Unipart Rail, which brings further expertise in product application and in guiding SMEs through the process of launching new productsinto the rail sector.

Professor Clive Roberts, Director at BCRRE says: “The Digi-Rail programme has grown from strength to strength and the expansion into Sheffield City Region is a very exciting move. We have delivered a number of successful projects across the West Midlands and
teaming up with Unipart Rail not only brings opportunities to SMEs in the SCR area, but with our combined expertise we can help accelerate innovation and expansion into the railway sector - helping businesses navigate the route to market”.

Unipart Rail are providing ERDF funded 12 hours of free business or product support to SMEs in the region, aimed at guiding them through the process of launching new products in the sector. Jake Rudham, Marketing Director said: “The rail industry can be incredibly difficult to access due to its complexity and relatively high barriers to entry. This can result in potentially transformative technologies failing to reach their maturity and become commercially viable. By providing the innovating companies with help and guidance, the route to launching new products can be both smoothed and accelerated.”

For more information contact innovation@unipartrail.com or complete our application form.

To watch the launch event, click here

Notes to Editors

About University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.

BCRRE is Europe’s largest academic-based group delivering railway science and education. With over 145 academics, researchers and professional support staff, BCRRE provides world-class research and thought leadership within railways, and offers an expanding portfolio of high-quality education programmes, including Rail and Rail Systems Level 6 and 7 degree apprenticeships. In 2018 BCRRE became lead partner in the £92m UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) and in 2019, it absorbed the activities of the Rail Alliance into its offering, increasing its breadth of support for innovation and growth in the rail industry. Contact BCRRE.

BCRRE has recently launched DIGI-RAIL SCR, a 3-year project part-funded by ERDF and University of Birmingham. DIGI-RAIL will bring together national and international rail industry buyers with the region’s businesses and research expertise to solve challenges within the industry and access the increasing number of digital rail commercial/research opportunities that exist in the sector.

About Unipart Rail

Unipart Rail is the leading specialist provider of technology and supply chain solutions to the rail industry. With a growing international presence and extensive expertise in infrastructure, signalling and traction and rolling stock products, Unipart Rail is a major partner to the rail industry.

Unipart Rail is part of the multinational Unipart Group, with headquarters in the United Kingdom and operations in more than 100 countries.
Unipart Rail brands also include:

  • Unipart Dorman - LED signalling and indication innovators and manufacturers
  • Park Signalling - signalling design and consultancy specialists
  • Instrumentel - remote condition monitoring specialists for high performance engines
    and rail applications
  • Samuel James Engineering - suppliers of LV switchgear and control gear systems for
    the Rail Industry
  • Westcode – a UK and US company with an extensive range of air supply equipment.

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