The Railway Industry Association (RIA)’s ‘M.A.D.E. for…’ series called in to the University of Southampton on 20 February for an all-day event on the topic of ‘Infrastructure’. Freelance journalist Ian Hall hears of growing funding possibilities, and innovations galore, but challenges include selecting the most promising projects to benefit.
“We have a lot more money than we have ever had before dedicated to innovation,” said Network Rail’s David Rowe, in one of the day’s opening presentations. Joking that his chief executive, Andrew Haines, was not known for his patience, Rowe said the organisation feels an urgency to “increase the scale and pace” of R&D in rail.
RIA’s ‘M.A.D.E for’ theme stands for Materials, Automation, Data and Energy - these are key areas where the UK rail sector is developing new technologies that could benefit both the domestic rail system and provide the industry with a competitive edge internationally.
More than 100 participants in Southampton heard about a succession of early-stage projects across these themes throughout a packed day. But what is the best route for people to develop their projects? The overall aim in Southampton was to provide, if not answers, then at least connections across the supply-chain to help organisations to progress their plans.
The consensus among attendees was that there is growing openness among many organisations to working collaboratively, including cross-fertilisation from beyond the rail sector.