Universities awarded £15m for new Railway Research and Innovation Centre in Wales
The University of Birmingham in partnership with Cardiff and Swansea universities have been awarded £15 million to establish a new world-leading railway research and innovation centre in south Wales.
The investment from the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF) will enable the universities to establish a new Centre of Excellence for Railway Testing, Validation and Customer Experience at the Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE) site, which is currently under construction.
The funding is part of £30m announced through the UKRPIF fund to establish two new world-leading railway research and innovation facilities, with the other being a new Centre of Excellence for Railway Through-Life Engineering in Goole.
The successful funding bids include a wider commitment from the rail industry to co-invest £60m, with a further £16m being invested by the University of Birmingham.
In total the package represents a £106m boost for UK research and development.
The new Centre of Excellence will provide purpose-built facilities alongside major UK railway industrial expertise to support railway innovation, research and development, in collaboration with leading industry partners.
The GCRE in which the new centre will be housed will be a facility for top level research, testing and certification of rolling stock, infrastructure and innovative new rail technologies.
It will support the UK and European rail industry in speeding up innovation, supporting decarbonisation and the development of more cost-effective rail infrastructure.
The Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) at the University of Birmingham is Europe’s largest specialist railway research, education, and innovation centre.
It will now also lead the Centre of Excellence in Railway Testing, Validation and Customer Experience, working with Cardiff and Swansea Universities.
Lee Waters MS, Deputy Climate Change Minister with responsibility for Transport, said: “The Global Centre of Rail Excellence in the Dulais Valley is one of the most critical and creative infrastructure projects happening anywhere in Europe.
“The rail sector, which is vital to the UK’s decarbonisation journey, is spending millions annually testing its equipment and rolling stock.
“Much of this spend is in Europe or the US but this award will go some way to ensuring the sector’s innovation is developed, tested and commercialised in Wales.
“There are lots of positives to this including ensuring value for money, creating highly paid skilled jobs and significantly reducing the carbon footprint of rail transportation for the future.
“The award of this new funding to further develop unique research and development facilities, in partnership with the Universities of Birmingham, Cardiff and Swansea is a huge vote of confidence.
Professor Clive Roberts, BCRRE Director, said: “With this new funding our aim is to have the capabilities and tools to enable innovations to progress from a great idea more effectively to a commercial solution by reducing the cost and risk of projects through the development process.
“Our focus on railway testing and validation is targeted at the whole innovation process with real-world impact at the forefront of our offering”.
Simon Jones, Chief Executive of GCRE Limited, said: “World class research and innovation is at the heart of the Global Centre of Rail Excellence mission. Working with University of Birmingham and their partners, which now include the universities of Cardiff and Swansea, will allow us to make this ambition a reality.
“Developing unique R&D facilities that will benefit academia, industry and most importantly passengers and taxpayers is why we have been established.
“Today’s announcement is the fruit of a lot of hard work and we look forward to taking the next steps together with our internationally renowned partners.”
Welsh Secretary David TC Davies MP added: “This latest significant funding from UK Government for research and innovation at the Global Centre of Rail Excellence builds on our existing £28m commitment to the project and will help ensure the exciting vision for GCRE becomes a reality.
“We will continue to support GCRE as it helps to develop Wales’s place as a centre for innovation, high-skilled jobs and the industries of the future.”
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