Activity: Research & Innovation

Research & Innovation should respond to the needs of the customers

In order to achieve a Single European Area, the rail sector has to be more innovative and open-minded towards solutions that support not only technology improvement, but also innovative approaches to operations, maintenance and logistic services.  This requires both, a short-term and a long-term vision, strategic planning and delivery in order to address existing challenges and barriers in our daily business.  Therefore, research activities at EU level are to support:

  • Ambitious goals to achieve interoperability and maintain safety levels around Europe
  • Stronger role of the railways as a more active mode in a multimodal transport
  • Increasing demand for the rail sector to perform better and achieve a more competitive and efficient transport for passengers and freight.

However, past rail research and innovation (R&I) efforts at EU level (like FP7) have suffered from fragmentation and inefficiencies, and have not always been sufficiently targeted towards the broader policy goals of completing the Single European Railway Area, and of increasing the competitiveness and attractiveness of the European rail sector and the rail manufacturing industry. Furthermore, the market uptake and impact of EU rail R&I projects under previous framework programmes has often been low and slow, although there are examples of EU-funded R&I investments resulting in outputs that have been and are still being taken up by the market. In 2011 the EU Heads of State and Government called on the European Commission to bring together all of the previous EU's research and innovation funding under a single common strategic framework. The Commission launched a wide-ranging consultation involving all key stakeholders which has led to Horizon 2020, the EU Framework Programme for Research and Innovation. Early 2017 on Shift2Rail, a public consultation will be launched regarding the interim evaluation of Joint Undertakings operating under Horizon 2020.

 Structure Shift2Rail JU

Following the entry into force of Regulation (EU) No 642/2014, the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking (S2R JU) was established under HORIZON 2020 as a new public-private partnership in the rail sector to provide a platform for coordinating research activities with a view to driving innovation in the sector for the years to come.The rationale for setting up a Joint Undertaking is that the pooling and coordination of R&I efforts at EU level stands a better chance of success given the transnational nature of the infrastructure and technologies to be developed in support of the Single European Railway Area, and the need to achieve a sufficient mass of resources.

  • The Founding Members of the Joint Undertaking are the European Union plus eight key players from the rail industry, including rail equipment manufacturers Alstom, Ansaldo STS, Bombardier, Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF), Siemens and Thales, as well as infrastructure managers Network Rail and Trafikverket. In December 2015, 19 associated members joined the initiative (see JU members for more details).
  • The Shift2Rail JU will manage the entire budget for rail research under Horizon 2020. The EU’s financial contribution to the S2R JU will amount to a maximum of €450 million from the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme. To access this funding, the rail industry had to commit to a contribution of at least €470 million, meaning the entire estimated budget of the S2R JU will be at least €920 million for the period 2014-2020.

The first call for proposal was launched in December 2015, with a submission deadline ending on the 17th of March 2016. The Calls were endowed with estimated projects value of €170 million to support innovation in railways (Commission contribution: €90 million, members of Shift2Rail: €80 million). This first batch of calls covers the five Shift2Rail Innovation Programmes (IP1 ‐ 5) and is split into 2 categories:

  1. CFM calls reserved for Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking members (incl. associated members), EU funding of €63.7 million (34.6mio for 2015 and 29.1mio for 2016) + €79.6 million from JU members and associated), and
  2. (OC) Open calls available to companies, universities, research institutes and others who are not Shift2Rail members, EU funding of €26.1 million (10mio for 2015 and 16.1mio for 2016)

Some topics relating to rail freight/rail freight wagons are of interest to freight wagon keepers:

On 24th of June 2016, The S2R JU announced  the finalisation of the evaluation procedure, with 27 grants to be awarded for a total value of €167 million.

The JTI has a co-financing structure of EC and Members contributions.  Therefore, some calls are dedicated to Members only (MC) and other calls are open to the wider community who are not Full Members or Associated Members of the JTI (OC).

  • For 2017 €19.5m will be available for all Open Calls (OC).
  • For IP5 Freight Activity, the allocated co-financing budget is €1,5 million.
  • There is also a Cross-Cutting Activity (CCA) on Smart Maintenance and Human Capital with co-financing budget of €700 000.

The submission period will be open from 10 January until 30 March 2017 (17:00 Brussels time).  You can find the call for proposals  on the S2R website or on the H2020 portal.

Significance to UIP and our Members

It is important for our members to be in the know on the latest innovation that shapes the future of the railways and freight transport.  As investors in rolling stock, the Keepers are best positioned to provide guidelines, and define requirements when it comes to smart and innovative wagons. It is for those reasons that UIP is a member of the European Rail Research Council (ERRAC) which is the European Technology Platform for Rail where strategies on research and development are defined by the railway sector.

UIP is also a member of the Users Group of Innovation Programme 5 (IP5) of Shift2Rail, whose role is to provide recommendations, present its needs and define requirements for innovation in freight transport and rail freight vehicles. As a representative body UIP acts as a coordinator and facilitator for its members to become involved and participate in projects related to noise, optimisation of rolling stock, and rail freight performance in general. Together with other Associations and industry companies, UIP has most recently had to consider the future role of ERRAC not only in the governance structure of Shift2Rail, but also in extending its scope to issues related to new policy priorities under Climate, Energy, and Digitalisation.

There is still a great concern that research activities are not aligned among the Sector actors and specific national activities, which leads to missed opportunities for studies that can support and respond to the technical and operational needs of our members and our customers. The areas that need most attention are:

  • A level playing field for all actors of the railway system;
  • Cooperation with other European Technology Platforms (ETPs) which represent other modes of transport and other relevant sectors (i.e. ALICE, WATERBORNE, ACARE).

Shift2Rail Press release - S2R awards first grants - June 2016
Shift2Rail Masterplan - March 2015
Shift2Rail Factsheet - July 2014
Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking – Frequently Asked Questions - December 2013

Tagged under Research & Innovation