Embedding Innovation: RIA Technology and Innovation Conference 2017

We recently attended the ninth Rail Industry Association (RIA) Technology and Innovation conference, which took place in Leicester on 15 – 16 March.WP_20170315_14_15_36_Pro

This year’s event carried a theme of ‘embedding innovation’ – inviting us to consider how to break down barriers so that great new ideas can become standard practice within rail organisations.

As a whole, the conference took a forward-looking approach.  HS2 Commercial Director Beth West, spoke on procurement approaches to enable innovation, and stressed the need for the freedom and incentive to innovate, as well as the importance of fresh perspectives and diversity in organisations. Hyperloop One Vice-President Alan James also shed light on a brand new mode of transport and future of transportation as a whole showing the potential for us to be moving a lot faster than previously imagined – real food for thought.

In keeping with this theme, RRUKA worked alongside representatives of the recently formed UK Rail Research Innovation Network (UKRRIN), to form an academic village – and update the supplier community on future developments in the academic rail research community.

UKRRIN is a network of centres supporting new innovation in rail transport, bringing together world class leaders in the fields of digital, rolling stock and infrastructure for rail research. The University of Birmingham led a consortium of universities and leading industry partners to develop a £90 million proposal to create and operate the three new centres. This included a bid for £28 million of capital grant funding from central government (the Higher Education Funding Council for England).

The centres will bring together existing facilities in these areas, filling capability gaps in the UK where investment will provide a step-change in realising innovation and accelerating new product development in the rail industry.

Clive Roberts represented the Digital centre at the conference, and delivered a presentation which set the scene for the supplier community and highlighted the benefits that the development of UKRRIN and each of the centres will bring – such as the export potential and opportunity for international, national and smaller organisations to come and test their products at the facilities.

UKRRIN Overview graphic

The graphic above provides a quick overview of the network and integration of the different centres.

Networking opportunities at the breaks and two interactive breakout sessions allowed us to get into the details, and share more about the role of each of the centres, RRUKA and its activities and the wider academic rail research network as a whole. The level of enthusiasm and interaction suggested we had definitely whet the appetites of many in attendance.

Interactive touch screens allowed users to freely explore and establish the focus of each centre, the existing expertise and facilities available, and the benefits of collaboration going forward.


Delegates were also invited to comment on the centre themes and focus areas with opportunities to add additional ideas and thoughts on what they hope to see included.

With opportunities to speak to those directly involved, find out about academic expertise across the wider academic network and speak to the RRUKA team about upcoming initiatives, there was certainly a lot to talk about!

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