Rail innovation: How are UKRRIN and its members helping to change the perception?

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Nailah Fraser-Haynes
Nailah Fraser-Haynes

Nailah Fraser-Haynes, Senior Partnership Manager at RSSB, talks to us about UKRRIN and the importance of academia and industry coming together  to move forward.

Every transport mode faces challenges, but there is one commonality… the desire to make things better, to innovate.

The confidence and ability to do so is often a ‘put your money where your mouth is’ scenario. To support the rail industry, that’s what a team of 14 key industry players committed to do just over two years ago, bringing the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network into being. The fact that businesses who in some circumstances are competitors, can come together as one team is something we as an industry should be extremely proud of. Each partner has their own unique interest in being involved in the network, but overall, we are all working to the same goal – to accelerate the development and adoption of new solutions and technologies in rail, and strengthen the GB rail offering globally.

RSSB has extensive knowledge of the academic community, and as an impartial expert body, supports in the assessment of applications from Universities wishing to join the network, emphasising the wealth of expertise offered by the academic community. We also play an important part in connecting UKRRIN with industry experts and maintaining close links with industry strategy.

RSSB logo
RSSB logo

My role as Senior Partnerships Manager, in RSSB’s Research and Development Team, sees me working to support the shared goal of disseminating research, stressing the value of collaborative working and understanding where opportunities to work together might help us tackle common problems the industry is facing – much of which is about communication and relationship management. As part of this, I am heavily involved in supporting the workings of UKRRIN, co-chairing its Engagement and Outreach group with Alex Burrows, Director, BCRRE.

UKRRIN provides the rail industry with access to world-leading experts and facilities across a varied range of areas to support the development and adoption of new solutions and technologies. The network now has 37 members, with the addition of new members bringing new capabilities to its existing Centres of Excellence, most recently in Digital Systems, and Rolling Stock. We are also now building on plans to develop research capabilities in passenger experience to better support the industry in its customer experience focus, a strong example of how the network is proactively looking to enhance UK rail capabilities in line with industry strategy.


The recently published RIA Innovation Survey clearly shows there is a perception of other industries being more innovative than rail. As an industry, I think we are honest in knowing that we need to do more, what we need to keep doing, is sharing and celebrating the achievements and successes. Networking events like the UKRRIN Annual Conference, RSSB Research and Innovation Showcases and the RIA Unlocking Innovation events, are vital to keep breaking down the barriers and connecting the dots in the innovation life cycle. These are the events where interested parties have a chance to find out what researchers and innovators are doing, share struggles faced, and understand how they can get involved in innovation activities which potentially could lead to significant changes in rail.

In the UKRRIN Engagement and Outreach team, we are planning to increase the level of activity in this area, at a time when we all unexpectedly find ourselves forced to take new, digital and bite-sized approaches to networking. Look out for more news on this front in the coming weeks.

Though a virtual team, the UKRRIN ‘door’ is open, in the sense that the network actively welcomes new industry organisations wishing to partner with Centres on the delivery of research and innovation activities.  UKRRIN is also working with RSSB and Network Rail to update the Rail Technical Strategy and share forthcoming plans for research so activity can be full mapped across all the major programmes.

What we need from you, particularly now, when the public health crisis will sadly present additional challenges – is the commitment to keep innovating, and feedback on how UKRRIN and its members could best help you to do so. Tell us…how can UKRRIN help you to innovate?

To get in touch with the UKRRIN team please email: ukrrin@rssb.co.uk

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