The merger, under which the Rail Alliance becomes part of the BCRRE, sets up a new approach where industry and academia will work together to directly address rail-related challenges while providing access to research, development and innovation supported by practical knowledge and experience.

“This is a golden opportunity for the rail industry, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), bringing together a wide range of talents in one team that combines world-leading capabilities across a large number of research areas with real industry expertise and know-how,” says BCRRE and Rail Alliance managing director, Mr Alex Burrows. “This is an extremely compelling offer that brings significant opportunities to all parts of the rail supply industry.”

BCRRE is the largest university-based centre for railway research and education in Europe, is part of the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) and also leads the Centre of Excellence in Digital Systems.

Following the merger, organisations will be able to engage on a one-to-one basis with BCRRE, located at the University of Birmingham’s Edgbaston Campus, and work in partnership with experts in their field to develop products and solutions for the rail market.

Supported by the Rail Alliance, SMEs will be able to take advantage of assistance in taking innovation to market while also having access to physical test and trial facilities. The merger will also provide access to programmes such as Digi-Rail or Rail Mentor, which have been developed to support the successful development and adoption of innovations.

Organisations will also be to register with the alliance free of charge. The only requirement is that companies must have a genuine interest in growing their business in rail as well as supporting the British rail supply industry.

“Rail Alliance and BCRRE coming together like this really furthers the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) agenda, helping to blend the innovative juice of the SME community with the academic and scientific rigour and mass of BCRRE and the UKRRIN,” says Mr Mike Noakes, head of rail at BEIS.