Network Rail has announced it has entered into a strategic partnership with the Connected Places Catapult (CPC), focused on the development of innovative technology to be used within the rail sector.
This ‘Innovation Factory’ move is one of the initiatives that Network Rail is taking under its £357 million R&D budget over the five years of Control Period 6, which runs from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2024.
As Innovation Partner, the Catapult will help identify challenges facing the rail industry and actively seek emerging technologies and solutions which could be adapted and applied to solve them. To further this goal, the CPC will be responsible for conducting a variety of activities to help drive engagement with innovative businesses, with the aim of helping Network Rail get new solutions into the market.
The Catapult will also use its technical capabilities to support the development of new concepts, products and services. This will help to reduce risk for both innovators interested in entering the rail industry and for Network Rail as they seek ‘outside the box’ solutions which could provide big improvements to operations across the network.
Helen Wylde, chief engagement officer at the CPC said: “There is significant appetite within Network Rail to increase the agility and pace of delivering innovation into the rail sector, which we are excited to support. New technologies and approaches are sweeping the transport industry and opening up an array of possibilities for improved operations on the rail network and end user experience.
“In our role as Innovation Partner we will be focused on creating an innovation pipeline that can make these possibilities a reality. In particular, we are aware of a wealth of innovation coming from the UK’s SME community and we will be looking at new ways to support them in entering the supply chain and for Network Rail to benefit from their know how.”
Martin Frobisher, Network Rail’s group director of safety, technical and engineering added: “We are in a time of unprecedented opportunity from technology and the emergence and growth of new companies. The joint work from Network Rail’s R&D Portfolio and CPC on the Innovation Factory will help us make the most of this opportunity, driving innovation at pace and reaching out to a broader range of companies that will help us make a real difference to passengers and freight customers.”