The Digital Systems Innovation Centre (DSIC) at the University of Birmingham will bring together existing academic and industry capabilities. It will innovate in new areas, supporting transformational change in rail technology across the globe.
The Centre will build on the expertise of the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) and the UK’s industrial base to deliver a step change in rail systems capability. It will secure a world-leading position in the sector and deliver jobs, growth and inward investment nationally and internationally.
The Centre will focus on all aspects of Digital Railway Innovation, providing a system-wide approach to transforming research, development and innovation.
Initial areas of technological focus will include:
All of these technical transformations have a part to play in the delivery of a more cost-effective, customer and carbon-friendly railway that delivers more capacity safely. The development of the centre of excellence in these areas will help the rail industry to ‘get there sooner’, thus improving the industry’s bottom line and reputation, as well as supporting the UK’s export agenda in the post-Brexit world.
The exact form and function of the Centre will be shaped by the industry partners. Engagement with industry to date has highlighted particular needs and at least four types of activity or space within the Centre are currently anticipated:
a) An entrance hall with technology demonstrators and visualisations showing the digital definition of the UK network at different scales, as well as seminar and meeting rooms.
b) Multi-disciplinary project labs addressing the big challenges with clients sharing problems and researchers defining potential conceptual solutions (some open and collaborative, some behind confidential walls).
The Centre will house openly available facilities and also have the ability to host bespoke research for specific sponsors that enable the railway and its interactions to be accurately represented. Connected models, simulators, assets and humans ‘in the loop’ will enable system, sub system and component levels to be developed, integrated and optimised for performance, capacity, resilience, sustainability, usability (customer satisfaction) and cost. This includes optimisation of existing network and asset base management. It also comprises the technical and business evaluation of introducing technology change, and the staging plans to enable it to be implemented seamlessly.
Industry collaborators will be able to develop and integrate transformational new technologies much more quickly. There will be a greater level of assurance to reduce the costs and risks of the change, and to ensure the greatest improvement impact.
The Centre presents an opportunity for:
Research and knowledge transfer is crucial to improve the speed, safety, resilience, sustainability, operations and management of railways across the system.
Using expertise at BCRRE, we seek to translate our findings into tangible improvements and impacts on railways. Our integrated systems approach provides solutions to the railway’s grand challenges as well as at component level and sub-system level.
In addition, the Centre will provide a focus for enabling connections into centres of excellence for technologies being developed and applied in other sectors e.g. driverless, autonomous vehicles, robotics, smart grids, the internet of things, smart cities, etc.
BCRRE has an international reputation for developing advanced railway traffic management systems to make better use of existing rolling stock and infrastructure, and to manage disruptions. Our work in this area is helping to define the next generation of railway traffic management and control systems; the Centre will enhance this capability and accelerate its deployment.
Our capability includes:
BCRRE investigates fundamental questions about the use of electronic information in the transport domain, from the collection and structured storage of raw data, through efficient processing and algorithms, to the delivery of the appropriate information to staff in a timely manner. Current projects include work on large database design; open data; data exchange and modelling; cyber security; and asset management.
BCRRE’s condition monitoring work focuses on developing and configuring instrumentation and processing systems that can be used to measure, track and predict the health of various railway subsystems. Such systems improve the operational reliability of the railway, or support business cases for variations in existing maintenance procedures. The group operates over a number of Technology Readiness Levels, from producing systems to support fundamental understanding of a railway subsystem, up to working with companies to develop research into commercial products or applications. The group has worked with major organisations within train operating companies and infrastructure. It has received prestigious awards for engineering innovation at a national level for work using in-service instrumentation to target maintenance on a third rail network. Algorithms developed at Birmingham are also used within Network Rail’s Intelligent Infrastructure programme, which continuously monitor the health of over 5,000 sets of points.