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Innovation as an Enabler for Sustainable Development in the Rail Industry in Great Britain

There is now a widespread recognition in the rail industry that innovation is a key enabler for the long-term sustainability of the railways in Great Britain, particularly in terms of economic sustainability. Whilst some progress has been made in bringing innovative technical solutions into the railway, focusing innovation efforts on technology alone will not be enough to achieve the level of cost reduction required to make the rail industry sustainable in the longer term.

The rail industry today is already a far different beast to that which it was only a few years ago.  See for example the recent RIA conferences on innovation in rail,  RIA's flagship unlocking innovation in rail scheme, the RSSB's research into the enablers of innovation in rail, the new RIA/RSSB award for innovation, and the overwhelming response to the recent Technology Strategy Board competition Accelerating Innovation in Rail for a small selection of how the innovation landscape in rail is changing radically.

A recent paper by Francis How (Railway Industry Association) and Axel Kappeler (Arthur D. Little) supports and builds on an emerging consensus that in order to achieve a sustainable railway, the industry needs to adopt a more sophisticated and broader approach to innovation.

It is fair to say that there is within the industry a widespread recognition that innovation is just as important in the rail sector as in any other, and that it is a key enabler for the long-term sustainability of the railways. Such recognition simply did not exist four years ago. 


The authors outline how this approach to innovation will involve:

  • the application of innovative thinking to operating processes and business models as well as to technology;
  • making innovation a central feature of the way we do business; and
  • moving to a position where innovation effort is aligned so as to deliver systemic benefits across and beyond the GB rail sector. 

In addition, the paper includes 

  • a clear indication of how innovation in the supply chain underpins 8 of the 10 identified sustainable development principles within the rail sector
  • an explanation of the innovation maturity model and what hard and soft enablers exist to help the railway industry move up the scale to increased innovation capability
  • how these enablers can be used by different stakeholders to effect the greatest changes, with indicative Performance Indicators
  • case studies from Deutsche Bahn, Invensys, Rolls Royce and Blu-ray, which illustrate how innovation doesn't just encompass technology

Read the full paper





1 person has had something to say so far

The primary task in the Railways is to identify: What needs changing to make it more efficient? Then examine: What exists {innovations(n)} that could be applied to make the railways more efficient. If none are applicable, it will be necessary to invent solutions and innovate (develop) them as innovations (material products, services or systems). Government regulations force all Public transport to operate to pre-determined schedules (most inefficient) to then offer a subsidised service to the Public. Technology would now allow Real-Time information about the location of both customers/train capacity to enable a much better service to the public to be applied.
Posted on 03/09/12 14:14.

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