Extending our reach into South East Europe

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Alex Burrows, Director of BCRRE, explains the importance of reaching far and wide in support of our innovation and technology ambition.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the University of Belgrade’s Faculty of Transport and Traffic Science and the Rail Cluster of South East Europe to discuss the opportunities for collaboration with universities and the developing rail industry across the region.

This was our 3rd visit this year: in January we made our first connection following our mutual involvement in the PERES (Promoting European Railway Excellence outside of the EU) project and in May we visited again to sign Letters of Intent with both the Faculty and the Cluster (RCSEE) and attend the RCSEE expo fair in Belgrade. Our Serbian friends visited Birmingham in September and our latest visit has further developed our relationship as well as seeing the initiation of a number of potential projects.

Our connection with the Belgrade Faculty and the regional rail cluster mimics what we have here in Birmingham: BCRRE together with the Rail Alliance taking on the challenges of research, development and innovation for mutual benefit. And once we make a connection   it’s important not to lose momentum in exploring these opportunities. Like us, our Serbian friends in both organisations – the Belgrade Faculty and the RSCEE – have shown what is possible when we all focus our efforts on developing effective collaborations to make good things happen.

The team from the University of Belgrade around the meeting table
The team from the University of Belgrade around the meeting table

During this visit, I was able to present BCRRE to a wide audience of academic staff and students in the Faculty as well as meeting with the Dean of the Belgrade Faculty of Transport, Dr Nebojša Bojović. Other meetings with the Rail Cluster and a number of their members, including the University of Zagreb, allowed us to make a start on collaboration agreements in the academic and industrial spheres. The opportunities open to us now include studentships, joint research funding applications and activities to connect the UK and South East Europe’s rail industries. We plan for our first collaborative PhD project to start early in 2020 and for further activities to kick off at a similar time.

Alex and Dragolub at the Red Star versus Spurs match.
Smiles before the football match. Note the Red Star scarf!

It wasn’t all work. By an amazing stroke of fortune, my visit coincided with the Champions’ League football match between Red Star Belgrade and Tottenham Hotspur. My Serbian hosts were able to obtain tickets (subject to me adopting Red Star as my team – which was relatively easy to do as a South Londoner) but sadly I was not a lucky charm and we were disappointed to leave the Marakana stadium following a 4-0 loss to the visitors!

Check out what my hosts had to say about my visit http://www.rcsee.org/rail-cluster/2019/11/07/visit-of-bcrre-director-to-rcsee-and-belgrade-faculty-of-transport/

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