Power couple set to ramp-up rail innovation

New collaboration sees new centre of low-cost rail excellence in the Black Country matched with transport innovation expertise from Connected Places Catapult.

Connected Places Catapult, the UK’s innovation accelerator for cities, transport, and place leadership, has agreed a new collaboration with the Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation (BCIMO). A Memorandum of Understanding is now in place between the two organisations which will see them work together to promote innovation in the transport sector.

The organisations will meet regularly to establish and scope projects that will bring benefits to the UK by supporting UK-based innovators. They will also work to align future collaborative research and development work.

The signing of the MoU took place at the newly constructed Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre (VLRNIC), a unique, purpose-built, research and development facility based in Dudley in the West Midlands. It comprises a three-storey innovation centre, complete with engineering hall, laboratories, offices, an events suite, and a brand new 2.2km test track located along part of the mothballed South Staffordshire line leased from Network Rail.

L-R: Alan Peters, Ecosystem Director - Rail and Stations, and Nicola Yates, CEO at Connected Places Catapult; Dr Nick Mallinson, Director of Business and Innovation, and Robert Evans, Chair of the Board of Directors at BCIMO.

Construction of the centre, which began in September 2020, was enabled through funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council (DMBC), the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (BCLEP) in partnership with the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) and Coventry City Council.

The VLRNIC will support BCIMO in the delivery of its vision for sustainable, integrated transport, which has a specific focus on the development of a new Very Light Rail industry.

As an innovation partner for HS2, Network Rail and the organisation behind DfT-funded innovation initiatives, such as Transport Research and Innovation Grants, The Catapult is already well established as a leader in innovation for the rail sector.

“The Catapult and BCIMO are developing a collaborative relationship together that is set to become more than the sum of its parts. BCIMO’s applied engineering know-how and world class facilities, coupled with the Catapult’s innovation expertise and industry network will prove to be a powerful combination. As non-profit entities working in the transport sector, we are uniquely placed to develop impact-driven initiatives to tackle some of the sector’s toughest challenges.”
Dr Alan Peters, Ecosystem Director - Rail and Stations at Connected Places Catapult
“We are delighted to be working in partnership with Connected Places Catapult and hope that together we can make significant improvements in the design, development and implementation of connected public transport solutions delivered by UK manufacturers.”
Dr Nick Mallinson, Director of Business and Innovation at the Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation