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Innovate UK

Making tracks for success: the role of an innovation lead in rail innovation

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The UK’s railways perform an amazing job, delivering up to 5,000,000 people every day to a vast range of locations across the nation and taking a huge proportion of freight off our congested roads. We often take them for granted, but imagine London without its underground network, or our major cities without an interconnecting transport network that offers 125mph travel as standard.

Multi-coloured London underground map.

Efficiency and capacity

However, the railways are often a victim of their own success and driving efficiency and increased capacity into the rail system is a key priority for the whole nation.

Since early 2017 we have been delighted to take on the challenge of contributing to the railway’s future success by helping to steer the Department for Transport’s rail innovation activities and providing a direct link to the nation’s innovators and supporting them in rising to the challenges that the railway network faces.

Rail projects at all stages of maturity

Working on rail innovation is always interesting, always different and always relevant. We currently supports rail project at all stages of maturity, from successful projects delivering benefits in terms of accessibility or connectivity, to brand new projects looking to deliver an enhanced traveling experience or ensuring vehicle reliability, or future projects that will make trains more punctual and intelligent.

train ticket reservation on a seat inside a train carriage.

Nationwide activities

Of course, this is not without its challenges, and keeping up with the kick-off meetings, the project activities, and supporting demonstration days is a constant flurry of activity for our team. Every week is different, and there are events and meetings across the country demanding attention. How do we get to these? By train of course! So much of what we deliver would not be possible without the rail network that straddles the nation.

Directly witnessing rail innovation at work

There is already plenty of incentive to support rail innovation for good economic reasons and the market is growing rapidly. But it always adds that little extra to be able to directly witness the output of our innovation programmes, be this through finding it easier to locate a seat, or better WiFi connectivity during a rail journey allowing us to be fully prepared for a meeting.

If you are interested to know more about our activities in rail innovation, have a look at our Accelerating Innovation in Rail programme, or come along to one of our competition briefing events. But you have to come to them by train!

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