The Innovate 4 Rail project will provide the target group of SMEs with practical support to develop new products and solutions for the rail industry.


How will the project be delivered? / What will it consist of?

The project will be delivered through 3 elements:

  • A regular programme of sector focussed events and workshops will be delivered to raise the SMEs’ awareness and capacity for innovation within rail. All delivery partners will participate in this element which will include specialist input on understanding the commercial opportunities in rail and the market requirements.
  • 1:1 diagnostic and advice including assessment of suitability for rail and scoping of potential new products, services or processes that could benefit from further project support. All delivery partners will participate in this element.
  • SMEs with a scoped project will then be supported through a collaborative research and innovation project involving technical and academic support from both University partners. This will include access to state of the art laboratories with purpose- built test rigs for true railway simulation, converting test data into information about performance, safety and durability. The project will also enable D2N2 SME access, where appropriate, to a real railway environment at an outdoor test facility (e.g. Quinton Rail Testing Centre (QRTC) for live track testing). Both University partners will participate in this element.
How will the above be achieved?

This will be achieved by providing a specialist innovation support programme to support SMEs in developing and bringing to market new products and services for a D2N2 priority sector.

SMEs will be able to access expertise in the following areas of technology where D2N2 is identified as having stand-out specialisms (all these being identified as key enabling technologies):

  • Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering
  • Digital Technologies and Data
  • Systems Integration

Support will be available across a range of technologies, but advanced digital technologies will be an area of focus reflecting the potential for Industry 4.0 applications in rail to:

  • Improve operational efficiencies and reduce cost
  • Improve asset management and performance
  • Reduce disruptive interventions in the rail corridor
  • Improve systems availability through improved reliability
  • Deliver improved passenger experience

Examples of areas where the project will provide collaborative research and innovation support to SMEs include:

  • Advanced rail composite design and manufacture
  • Rail data analytics (Big Data)
  • Additive manufacture applications for rail
  • Artificial Intelligence applications throughout the asset lifecycle
  • Application of Internet of Things (IoT) and Cybersecurity
  • Condition Monitoring, Information Systems and Control Systems development
  • Predictive Maintenance
  • Future Railway Operations, Revenue Collection and Traffic Management
  • Product and System Design and development for Rolling Stock and Infrastructure
  • Energy Optimisation
  • BIM Applications and Tools Development
  • Data integration and cybersecurity

Some interventions will be delivered through a series of workshops and 1:1 support.

Workshops will cover a range of topics, for example (not an exhaustive list):

  • Get into Rail (targeting new entrants to the rail sector)
  • Meet the Engineer
  • Asset Management
  • Systems Integration
  • Digital Railway Opportunities
  • Data – Digital Twin

2-day masterclasses will be delivered if/where a more in-depth intervention is required.

Events will be delivered predominantly in Derby but some events will be delivered from Chesterfield to encourage wider SME participation in the North of D2N2.

SMEs receiving technical support will move onto a longer intervention, which will involve more detailed benchmarking and impact assessment. Case studies will be developed from this activity documenting the journey from laboratory to track. Such clients will be able to access equipment including laboratory based simulation and demonstration technologies at the University of Derby and the University of Birmingham.

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