The UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) is a joint industry/universities partnership to deliver the Rail Technical Strategy by accelerating the uptake of innovation. Led by T2F partners Prof Clive Roberts at Birmingham (Digital and overall lead), Prof Simon Iwnicki at Huddersfield (Rolling stock) and Prof William Powrie at Southampton (Infrastructure), UKRRIN will be formally launched at the House of Commons in February 2018.
Although new it is already influential. The Transport Infrastructure Efficiency Strategy cites UKRRIN as a precedent for “collaborative knowledge sharing [that provides] an effective way to support transport bodies and the supply chain in identifying and managing innovations” (p58).
The rail sector strategy Fast Track to the Future undertook to develop a network of Centres of Excellence for innovation, in collaboration with the Government and universities (p48). Three research Centres of Excellence were selected in September 2016 through a rigorous process run by industry: Infrastructure led by the University of Southampton, Rolling Stock led by the University of Huddersfield, and Digital at the University of Birmingham. A testing Centre of Excellence was formed around Network Rail’s existing Rail Innovation and Development Centres. In July 2017 UKRRIN was awarded £28.1M by the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund through HEFCE, matched by industry commitments of £20M in cash and £42M in kind. The Rail Technical Strategy Capability Delivery Plan assumes the availability of these Centres of Excellence to support accelerated research, development and technology deployment (p34).
UKRRIN is seen by government as central to its strategy for the rail industry. The Government’s Strategic Vision for Rail commits to working with industry and academia to deliver improved performance (p42) and continues “UKRRIN will future-proof the UK rail industry by supporting research in the key areas of digital systems, rolling stock, and infrastructure innovation”. The recent Industrial Strategy White Paper says, “[UKRRIN] will enable collaboration between the rail industry, universities, small and medium sized business (SMEs) and infrastructure owners to deliver innovations …” (p140).