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The University of Southampton

University to spearhead rail infrastructure research as part of £92m partnership

Published: 10 July 2017
National Infrastructure Laboratory
Artist's impression of the National Infrastructure Laboratory. Credit: Grimshaw Architects

The University of Southampton is to spearhead research into rail infrastructure as part of a £92m partnership between the rail supply industry and a consortium of eight universities aimed at establishing the UK as a world-leading centre of excellence.

The partnership – part of the newly created UK Railway Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) – has won £28.1m from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) managed by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). It follows a bid successfully led by the University of Birmingham. The funding will be boosted by £64m of support from 17 industrial partners including Alstom, Siemens and Bombardier Transportation.

The UKRPIF funding will be used to create three linked world-class centres of excellence, forming the research heart of UKRRIN, which will focus on infrastructure, digital systems and rolling stock.

Working in collaboration with the University of Sheffield, Loughborough University, the University of Nottingham and Heriot-Watt University, the University of Southampton will lead the research into infrastructure, developing world-leading new technologies and products to deliver a more reliable rail network that can be more effectively managed.

The announcement consolidates Southampton’s reputation as the UK’s leading university for rail infrastructure research. Key to the delivery of the University’s contribution will be the National Infrastructure Laboratory, currently under construction at the University’s Boldrewood Innovation Campus.

HS2, the UK’s planned high-speed rail network, will be among the beneficiaries of the world-leading research.

Welcoming the announcement, Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton, said: “This major funding award is excellent news for the University and demonstrates once again how industry and academia can work in partnership for the benefit of the nation as a whole.

“Combining our specialist knowledge with that of our partners at Sheffield, Loughborough, Nottingham and Heriot Watt, we will advance fundamental science to tackle the problems currently undermining the UK’s rail infrastructure and help create a sustainable network fit for the future."

Professor William Powrie, Dean of Engineering and the Environment at the University of Southampton, said: “This is wonderful news – for us, our partners, and for the future of Britain’s railway network. The rail industry and its supply chain contribute up to £9.3 billion a year to the UK economy, and enhance the productive potential of the economy by up to £10.2 billion a year – so any improvements we can make to the infrastructure will have a huge knock-on effect of increasing value and decreasing costs.”

Among the infrastructure challenges that Southampton and its partners will address is the need to reduce embedded carbon and carbon emissions; reduce operating costs by increasing efficiency; increase the capacity of the existing network; and provide rail customers with a better experience.

Gordon Wakefield, Divisional Managing Director for Siemens Mobility UK and Industry Chair of the Rail Supply Group, commented: “This investment brings together a range of British universities renowned for their expertise in railway research, backed by leading partners across the rail supply industry.

“UKRRIN will undoubtedly create important strategic partnerships and support future high speed rail programmes in the UK and around the world.”

The UKRRIN will support delivery of the British rail industry’s ambitious Rail Technical Strategy in alignment with the Government’s Industrial Strategy. More information can be obtained from the UKRRIN website.


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