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A Railway Innovation Strategy: Getting Ready for Great British Railways

A Railway Innovation Strategy: Getting Ready for Great British Railways

RIA new report, A Rail Innovation Strategy calls for the sector to be more radical and overcome barriers to innovation, including supporting the vital rollout phase ahead of the transition to Great British Railways (GBR).

The paper looks at the state of innovation and R&D in the sector and the barriers to getting new products and services into the railways. It stresses that further collaboration to help businesses get new ideas to market more rapidly and a culture of innovation will be key under GBR, in order to make the industry more cost-efficient, sustainable and accessible to passengers.

This comes after RIA published a survey of industry professionals which found that whilst there is support for R&D, procurement processes remain the biggest barrier to innovation. The report also makes five recommendations to those responsible for crafting the shape of Great British Railways and highlights a number of case studies and current projects which will help drive innovation.

“The UK is home to some of the most innovative rail businesses and organisations anywhere in the world, with valuable products and expertise to reduce costs, cut carbon and improve the experience for passengers. An innovative sector is also good for UK plc, with expertise that can be exported globally,” said Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the Railway Industry Association.

Key Messages

  1. Increase Government investment in rail research, development, and innovation. This will leverage private sector investment by sharing risks at an early stage and giving confidence to develop skills and capabilities. Rail plays an active role in technology areas identified by the Government in its innovation strategy.
  2. Strengthen support during the innovation rollout phase. Government and private sector initiatives have been successful in encouraging research and development, but often fail at the market adoption phase. Moving from innovation to business-as-usual requires resources, long-term commitment to change and buy-in from all levels of industry and Government.
  3. Lead a concerted cross-industry effort to identify and overcome barriers to successful adoption. Innovations need a clear path to market, and rollout is often prevented by policy, procurement, cultural or industry issues which are beyond the control of private sector innovators and investors.
  4. Provide a pathway and funding for radical innovation. To maximise the chance of positive change and securing the greatest benefits we should be prepared to focus a portion of any innovation portfolio on radical and challenging innovation – accepting some may fail, but those which succeed will provide ample reward.
  5. The railway must adopt a whole-system and long-term view to enable the right innovation. Innovation is core to the future resilience, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability of the railway, and needs to be treated as a business function like all others.
  6. Support skills development and the creation of an innovation culture. There is a need to encourage and support innovators on the individual level through training and development, promoting a culture of continuous learning.

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