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Global Centre of Rail Excellence: railway construction innovation

Automotive & Transport
Project Size:
up to £25,000

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will work with the Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to invest up to £7.44 million in innovation projects. These will be to propose, deliver and demonstrate innovation in Railway Construction.

The aim of this competition is to support initial feasibility studies outlining how you would deliver a demonstration of innovation in railway construction to the GCRE site.

Your feasibility study must develop your plan to work with the construction teams at GCRE to deliver and demonstrate your innovation.

This is phase 1 of a potential 2-phase competition.

  • Phase 1 Feasibility studies (this phase)
  • Phase 2 Demonstration: potential invite only competition for successful phase 1 projects to develop and demonstrate their innovations

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process. This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.


Your project

Your project must:

  • have a total grant funding request of up to £25,000
  • have total project costs of up to £40,000
  • start by 1 May 2023
  • end by 31 July 2023
  • last up to 3 months
  • carry out all of its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

You must only include eligible project costs in your application.

Under current restrictions, this competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian and Belarusian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian and Belarusian source.

Lead organisation

To lead a project or work alone your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business of any size, academic institution, a research and technology organisation (RTO), charity, not for profit or public sector organisation
  • plan to work with other organisations that are leading the construction of the Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE)

If the lead organisation is categorised as a research organisation or an RTO it must collaborate with at least 1 eligible grant claiming business of any size.

More information on the different types of organisation can be found in our Funding rules.

Project team

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be one of the following UK registered:

  • business of any size
  • academic institution
  • charity
  • not for profit
  • public sector organisation
  • research and technology organisation (RTO)

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account and enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.

To be an eligible collaboration, the lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding when entering their costs during the application.

Non-funded partners

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non-UK businesses. Their costs will count towards the total project costs.


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.

You can use subcontractors from overseas but must make the case in your application as to why you could not use suppliers from the UK.

You must provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you. We will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

All subcontractor costs must be justified and appropriate to the total project costs.

Number of applications

An eligible organisation can lead on and can be included as a collaborator in any number of applications.

The aim of this competition is to deliver feasibility studies outlining plans to demonstrate innovation in railway construction working with the teams building the Global Centre of Rail Excellence(GCRE) facility.

Successful feasibility studies will be invited to a phase 2 competition to apply for additional grant support to deliver and demonstrate their innovation at the GCRE site.

Your proposal must outline how you will work with the teams at GCRE to deliver an innovation in railway construction.

Your project must propose innovations to deliver as many of these improvements as possible:

  • reduced construction costs
  • lower carbon footprint and environmental benefits
  • reduced through life costs
  • improved resilience
  • enhanced safety
  • reduced timescales
  • efficiencies in materials handling or efficient use of resources

You must develop a working relationship with the GCRE lead construction teams to allow sharing of information and other support activities as part of your feasibility study. Introductions will be made to these teams by GCRE. These relationships must be developed as part of your phase 1 feasibility study to deliver an effective phase 2 project.

Your proposal must describe how you will work with the GCRE construction teams to deliver on-site demonstrations in South Wales.

Contracts for GCRE construction activities are being let sequentially over a period of time. Timing of an effective phase 2 activity may vary, depending on the element of the GCRE construction that your innovation will address.

You must initially plan for your phase 2 project to start in December 2023, and finish between late 2024 and early 2025. All activity must be completed before 31 March 2025.

At the completion of your feasibility study, you must produce an end of project feasibility report describing the outcomes of the phase 1 project and your plans for phase 2.

Your phase 2 plans must also allow for the continued presence of your innovation at the GCRE facility for an extended period after the completion of your funded project. This extended period will enable continued testing and demonstration activities. Any conditions associated with this should be outlined in your Phase 1 feasibility report.

Where access to the site is required after the completion of your phase 2 activity, this may require an additional commercial relationship be agreed with GCRE.

Portfolio approach

We want to fund a variety of projects across different technologies, markets, and themes. We call this a portfolio approach.

Specific Themes

Your project must focus on one or more of the following themes:

Trackwork challenges:

  • stability under loading and speed
  • use of modern sustainable materials or low-carbon sleeper design
  • reduction of moving components in switches and crossings
  • noise barriers with long life resilience to the passage of high-speed trains and high wind speeds.
  • slab to ballasted track transitions
  • slab track renewals from the perspective of carbon and whole life cost
  • low carbon, recyclable or reclaimed ballast
  • automated installation of trackwork, including robotics and efficiency in installation
  • acoustic performance of the track

Overhead line electrification (OLE) challenges:

  • lightweight OLE structures and foundations, the use of modern sustainable materials and alternative materials for OLE and the use of composites in OLE
  • stability of OLE to accommodate multiple pantograph vehicles, damping of OLE and the OLE-pantograph interface
  • innovation in foundation design and masts (lighter, shallower piles), or integration of OLE with the track without requiring separate piling
  • OLE and trackwork delivered as integrated elements, for example where OLE is a component of the track and not a separate element

Earthworks and structures, including bridges and underpasses:

  • grade-separated crossings, the use of innovative materials to deliver low carbon and reduced cost in bridge and underpass construction, and innovation to reduce the need for cut and cover underpass construction
  • retaining structures that deliver reduced construction costs, a lower carbon footprint, reduced through life costs, improved resilience, and enhanced safety
  • use of innovative materials to deliver low carbon and reduced cost noise barriers, and the innovative design of noise barriers, for example, smaller, lower or less obtrusive

Power supply infrastructure, including alternative power supply technologies:

  • the use of renewables, delivering a net zero operation of the GCRE site, including traction power,
  • power supply considerations during the construction phase, for example, greener supply of energy, offsetting between contractors or trading greener energy solutions
  • a railway capable system for energy storage, with suitable power and response time requirements for a railway
  • energy storage systems for supply of traction power
  • a feed of regenerative braking energy and on-site power generation back to the grid
  • miniaturisation of power supply hardware, for example approaches to removing large oil-filled transformers
  • using the OLE as a distribution network for non-traction power
  • low cost solutions to convert 25kV to lower voltages

Telecommunications for railway based, 5G and line of route communications to operate the railway:

  • 5G, Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) and migration solutions for the railways
  • immunisation of systems for Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC)
  • reduction of a requirement for line of sight for telecoms technology
  • reduction in power distribution requirements for the telecoms equipment

Security for perimeters, rail-side, physical and cyber security:

  • remote sensory system, anti-trespass systems, unattended monitoring for trespass
  • innovation in perimeter protection and monitoring technology to address planning or aesthetic considerations, and to reduce security costs of physical infrastructure, including the use of non-barrier technology
  • access control systems to optimise access and safety requirements

Monitoring and maintenance, digital twin, instrumentation of structures or monitoring of infrastructure:

  • effective application and integration of sensor technologies for monitoring and maintenance
  • predictive digital twin capability and integration of data to help plan for foreseen and unforeseen events

Please note: all solutions in this theme need to be integral to the GCRE construction.

Railway operation and automated systems:

  • innovation to cost effectively automate train control during testing and provision of a safer operating environment
  • innovation to remotely operate and monitor trains during testing

Ecology and habitat creation:

  • innovation to effectively protect wildlife on the GCRE site during construction works
  • innovation to allow wildlife to cohabit with the operational railway
  • innovation to increase the positive environmental impact of the GCRE facilities
  • innovation in building materials to reduce construction costs, design costs and environmental impact.

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