Rail technology funding could boost innovation and growth

More than 20 British-based companies are to share £5m of investment in new railway technology that could help exploit a growing export market.

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and industry body the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) have match-funded 19 projects that are hoped to speed up innovation and business growth in the UK rail sector.

This includes several projects that will bring in businesses that have not previously operated in the rail sector and exploit potential crossovers with the automotive industry.

Richard Kemp-Harper, lead technologist for transport and energy at the TSB, said the funds would support a shift towards more innovative practices in the rail industry and could create exportable products at a time when worldwide train use is growing.

‘Over the last couple of years, the rail industry has really stepped up what it’s trying to do around innovation and the landscape is changing,’ he told The Engineer.

‘This is another angle on that. There are some really good engineering businesses in the UK with some great capabilities. Let’s see how we can help bring them to bear on the problems we face in rail.’

He added: ‘If businesses have an export market in mind, then it can spread the cost of the development… We hope to enable businesses to have an eye on the global market, which is growing.’

Funded projects include attempts to bring low-carbon technology from the automotive world, such as Artemis Intelligent Power’s flywheel and Magnomatics’ magnetic gearbox, into the rail sector to help reduce fuel costs.

Omnicom Engineering is developing software to remotely monitor the health of equipment on the rail network, which could also have applications in road transport.

Other projects include ideas to prevent the costly issue of cable theft, introduce aerospace materials into rail technology and enhance mobile and broadband provision on trains.