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