Rail Manufacturing CRC

Closure of Rail Manufacturing CRC leaves room for R&D investment

The Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) held its last event on June 25 and officially closed on July 1 leaving a gap in the Australian rail industry’s research and development landscape.

Established in 2014, the Rail Manufacturing CRC has left a legacy in the form of new products for commercialisation, including passenger information systems installed at Wynyard Station in Sydney and prototypes of supercapacitor control systems and composite brake discs.

Stuart Thomson, Rail Manufacturing CRC CEO, said that more work needs to be done to build off the centre’s successes.

“New models of cooperation between industry and researchers, individual state governments and the Commonwealth Government will need to be explored. A national strategy for rail and rail innovation would be a great impetus for ensuring a future innovative rail sector.”

Caroline Wilkie, CEO of the Australasian Railway Association (ARA), said that the CRC’s work is already having an impact.

“The Rail Manufacturing CRC has worked alongside rail manufacturers and operators to deliver new technology and innovation that will make a real difference to the industry,” said Wilkie.

“The CRC’s collaborative focus has delivered some great results and the team can be very proud of its record of achievement.”

With the CRC now closed and no immediate plans for a replacement, Wilkie notes there is more need than ever for support for collaboration between industry and research organisations.

“New funding is now essential to keep the focus on technology and innovation in rail.”

Thomson said that with the current levels of investment in rail, there is an opportunity to grow local manufacturing.

“There is a need to strengthen the domestic rail supply chain. By providing incentives for SMEs to invest in research and development, and encouraging global suppliers currently not investing in local innovation or local supply chains to invest in the long term future of the local rail sector, this will create future advanced manufacturing businesses and employment opportunities.”

As the Australian rail industry adopts digital technology and smart systems, this investment should be supported with local research and development.

“Technology will play an increasing role in the rail industry and continued investment is essential to make sure Australia remains at the forefront of innovation,” said Wilkie.

“It is more important than ever that this work continues as the industry prepares for new growth.”

Projects conducted by the Rail Manufacturing CRC have been highly regarded, with the Dwell Track technology winning the CRC Association’s annual Excellence in Innovation award. In addition, projects have led to industry implementation, with CRRC, Bombardier, and Downer having already put the projects to work.

In a recent interview with Rail Express, Thomson said that the CRC was able to design research that met the needs of industry.

“The industry has faced, and will continue to face, infrastructure and innovation challenges in Australia. By developing research projects and teaming up experts to support the industry, we are ensuring innovation meets industry’s needs and requirements to deliver the transformational change required in the rail sector.”

Projects completed by the Rail Manufacturing CRC can be found here: https://www.rmcrc.com.au/.

Cohesive approach to research and development needed to maximise rail investment

A new report will provide the rail industry with recommendations to ensure that research leads to a thriving technology and innovation culture within the rail industry.

The Australasian Railway Association (ARA) has commissioned L.E.K. Consulting to benchmark the industry’s investment in and use of technology.

The report comes as one of the key sponsors of research in the rail industry closes down, the Rail Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC). The ARA highlights that CRCs, including the previous Rail CRC and Rail Innovation CRCs have driven innovation, and without the Rail Manufacturing CRC there will be a “significant void”.

By sponsoring cross-sector research and collaboration between researchers and industry, CRCs have overcome one of the key deficiencies in Australian research and development (R&D), a lack of collaboration between industry and research. This lack was identified as the lowest in the OECD by the federal government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda Report.

Another challenge for innovation and technology adoption in the rail industry is the lack of alignment across the sector. The disparate aims of state and federal governments, purchasers, suppliers, and researchers has created a disconnect between planning, action, support, and adoption, the ARA write in their briefing note.

The ARA highlights that a cohesive business case is needed to support investment in rail technology and innovation.

As part of the research project, the L.E.K. report will benchmark investment, development and adoption of technology, outline the benefits, and challenges for the development and adoption of technology, review and identify solutions and make recommendations.

The potential of coherent investment in rail technology and innovation has the potential to improve productivity in the sector, creating jobs and economic growth. In addition, local investment in R&D can increase local capacity and maintain areas of competitive advantage.

The ARA highlights that the current investment pipeline represents an opportunity for investment in R&D, that can maximise efficiency in the delivery of rail infrastructure.

The report follows increasing calls at a federal level to support local suppliers and producers. Industry Minister Karen Andrews noted that there is the potential to support local supply chains.

“This is about embracing the incredible quality of Australian-made products – products that nations around the world associate with being top-notch.”

Shadow Infrastructure Minister Catherine King said that calls for locally produced goods should extend to infrastructure projects.

“Employing Australian workers and using Australian-made materials on Government-funded infrastructure projects creates more jobs all along the supply chain and ensures that Government investment remains in our community, rather than flowing to overseas companies.

“This should include building trains here and working with the States and Territories to smooth out production, lower costs and build skills and capability.”