Highlights from the 6th RRUKA Annual Conference: Shaping the future of academic partnerships

Over 200 experts from both industry and academia came together last Thursday, to share ideas and help shape the future of academic partnerships and rail research in the UK.

Held at Kings Place, London, RRUKA’s 6th Annual event invited delegates to hear a selection of novel research currently underway including consideration of time spent by passengers at stations, automating the servicing of passenger train fluids, railway pantograph dynamic behaviour measurement and fault diagnosis, and much much more.


During refreshment breaks, delegates were invited to explore an interactive ‘Blue-Sky village’ exhibition which featured stands from 9 member universities and for the first time 6 industry and collaborative organisations – it also included a ‘virtual reality cave’!

“RRUKA managed to generate a warm and engaging atmosphere that encouraged collaboration. People can sometimes be a bit more reserved at industry events, but the village and networking spaces really made it interactive”.
–  2017 delegate, University of Brunel


Iain Roche, Head of Innovation at HS2, spoke about the challenges of building Europe’s largest infrastructure project, taking inspiration from other projects such as Crossrail, and the need to put people at the heart of its delivery. Ernesto Sicilia, Chairman and Managing Director at Trenitalia, and Marco Caposciutti, Technical Director, Trenitalia also provided a European perspective on collaboration and the stimulation of innovation including examples of how innovative remote conditioning can allow 8% savings in train maintenance.

Clive Roberts, Professor at University of Birmingham, and Sharon Odetunde, Head of Academic Partnerships at RSSB, also provided an update on the development of the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN), speaking about how best to engage with the network, and the need to get research from universities more quickly into industry. They also shared a proposal for the consolidation  of RRUKA and UKRRIN in order to deliver five core functions to best meet rail industry needs.

We also heard from this year’s winner of the Best Young Researcher Award. Alex Knight-Percival, from Unipart Rail and Manchester Metropolitan University won the award for his research into mapping of the electromagnetic environment on the railway.  Alex custom-built a sensitive magnetic field detection system for the underside of a rail vehicle.  By approaching the problem in a different way and making condition measurements using a train borne system, monitoring of track circuits has been made easier and cheaper. Predictive maintenance of track circuits has the potential to improve reliability for passengers.

As RRUKA Academic Co-Chair Stuart Hillmansen noted in his closing remarks, the day’s discussions illustrated the need for continued research and innovation in rail, and demonstrated the high level of interest and investment in the sector at present.

“The day was filled with innovative ideas on how to improve the railway and work was presented which makes significant progress towards helping the industry achieve its Capability Delivery Plan”.
– Stuart Hillmansen, Academic Co-Chair, RRUKA

We filmed innovations from the blue-sky village at the conference, including 3-D interactive immersive training techniques and heard from the University of Southampton on instrumenting pile foundations for railway overhead line equipment, and will be sharing these shortly.

As always we would like to thank our delegates, speakers and exhibitors for making time to join and support us on the day. All conference proceedings will be made available on SPARK

Join the conversation and view pictures from the conference: #rruka2017


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