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University in £15m UKRI rail innovation award

6 July 2023

A photograph of the GCRE site in South Wales
The GCRE site in South Wales

Cardiff University, the University of Birmingham and Swansea University have won a £15m UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) award to establish a leading railway research centre in South Wales.

The project, led by Birmingham, will see the development of a Railway Research and Innovation Centre at the Global Centre of Rail Excellence.

The investment, through the UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (RPIF), will enable the three Universities to establish a new Centre of Excellence for Railway Testing, Validation and Customer Experience at the GCRE site, currently under construction at the head of the Dulais and Swansea valleys.

Cardiff’s School of Engineering brings a wide range of specialist knowledge to the project.

Professor Carol Featherston, a sustainable transport specialist and Cardiff’s project lead, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) to deliver the new centre.

“Our expertise in Energy, Digital Systems and cybersecurity, Human Factors and Infrastructure, in collaboration with Birmingham and Swansea, will support the UK and European rail industry by speeding up innovation, supporting decarbonisation and developing a more cost-effective rail infrastructure.”

Professor Roger Whitaker, Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation, said: “Cardiff is keen to work with GCRE on a project that aligns with the University’s decarbonisation and sustainability goals and brings benefits to the wider Wales economy by supporting the UK’s first net zero railway.”

The new Centre of Excellence for Railway Testing, Validation and Customer Experience will provide purpose-built facilities alongside major UK railway industrial expertise to support railway innovation, research and development at GCRE, in collaboration with leading industry partners.

The Global Centre of Rail Excellence will be a facility for world class research, testing and certification of rolling stock, infrastructure and innovative new rail technologies.

Simon Jones, Chief Executive, GCRE, said: “World class research and innovation is at the heart of GCRE’s mission.  Working with the universities of Birmingham, Cardiff and Swansea will allow us to make this ambition a reality.”

Professor Clive Roberts, BCRRE Director, said: “As a global leader in railway research and education, we work with partners across the world to develop their workforce and their technical and operational capabilities.  We are also a leader in railway enterprise and innovation, the team here continues to work with SMEs through to OEMs to keep the railway in operation.

Welsh Secretary David TC Davies MP said: “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.”

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 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 in Wales as we continue to sustain and build an innovative, competitive and greener economy.”

The Wales Innovation Network facilitated the selection of Welsh university partners for the project.

GCRE was established in 2021 with an initial commitment of £50 million from the Welsh Government. The UK Government is supporting the project with funding for research and development along with capital funding of £20 million. GCRE recently launched a major public procurement to attract private funding for the project.

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