Research and Innovation Coordination Group (RICG)

Coordination of railway research and innovation in Europe

UIC’s Research and Innovation Coordination Group (RICG) coordinates all issues relating to research and innovation for the European region. The group was created in 2005 with the aim of ensuring sustainable and efficient coordination among European members in their research and innovation efforts with a view to creating and continuously developing the Future European Railway System (FERS) as a collaborative effort.

Today, the RICG actively develops the railway operating community’s strategic vision for research and innovation, supports UIC’s European members in avoiding duplication of research and helps to strengthen members’ participation in collaborative research programmes and facilitate access to funding available for railway research in Europe. The group’s terms of reference were redefined in 2016 to refocus its priorities in light of emerging trends in railway research and innovation and the emergence of Shift2Rail as a core delivery vehicle for railway innovation.

The RICG is currently chaired by Mr Bo Olsson (Trafikverket), with Mr Jürgen Maier (BLS) and Ms Karin Biffiger (SBB) as joint vice-chairs.

Objectives

The members of the European railway operating community - railway undertakings, infrastructure managers, railway research institutes and other entities - have actively contributed to setting up the Research and Innovation Coordination Group (RICG) and, over the years, have helped to shape the group into an open and collaborative coordination platform for research and innovation.

The objectives of the RICG are to:

  • identify the long-term needs and coordinate the interests of the railways in terms of railway research and innovation and communicate them via the European Rail Research Advisory Council (ERRAC) and other suitable means
  • define research and innovation strategies and plans of action for the business needs of the railway operating community
  • monitor and, where relevant, influence working programmes such as the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking
  • support ERRAC activities and formulate a common railway operating community (ROC) position in cooperation with other stakeholders in ERRAC, namely member states, manufacturers and suppliers, customer associations, academia, etc.
  • identify and coordinate research and innovation activities with railway representative bodies (CER, EIM, etc.) in conjunction with the Coordination Technical Group (CTG)
  • provide a platform for the exchange of information on research and innovation activities in Europe and at national level, promoting and disseminating the common elements of members’ visions and strategies
  • identify common research topics for project initiation and submission with partners to actively influence and to respond to calls for projects from the European Commission
  • formulate positions with regard to other stakeholders’ proposals for research and innovation programmes and projects
  • exchange information on research and innovation programmes and national projects
  • coordinate - when and where relevant - preparation of project proposals with active support from UIC through exchange of information on ongoing and planned EU-funded projects, facilitating networking and the creation of project consortia
  • monitor ongoing EU projects and defend a common ROC position on strategic EU projects resulting in technological harmonisation and standardisation
  • deliver information on UIC member project progress and outcomes: publications and research conferences
  • provide a vehicle for developing cooperation and research capacity for the benefit of members and external partners in preparing and delivering project proposals
  • interface with UIC research coordination groups worldwide (International Railway Research Board - IRRB) to foster cooperation with key research bodies from outside Europe

Since its creation, the RICG has contributed directly and indirectly to the FP7 and Horizon 2020 European Framework Programmes, supporting members with calls for submissions and ensuring that information is shared between members so as to create synergies and avoid unnecessary duplication.

It is important to note that the RICG is not a UIC research body and, as a result, does not undertake research and innovation projects. The group is focussed on research and innovation coordination activities, influencing European stakeholders in research and innovation and offering guidance to UIC’s technical departments with regard to needs analysis for the Future European Railway System (FERS) to be integrated in the European transport system.

Synergies between global and European rail research

The RICG liaises with the International Railway Research Board (IRRB), its global counterpart, on common issues as appropriate to ensure cooperation from all of its key research bodies.

Cooperation is being bolstered by the European Union framework research programmes, which are increasingly specifying active participation of non-European partners in the project development stage as a project requirement.

Building the (rail)way to 2050

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In 2017, the RICG was particularly active in revising the European research and innovation strategy and delivered the “12 Capabilities” as a first pillar. The 12 Capabilities demonstrate how the European ROC expects to operate in 2050 as the backbone of the European transport system. Although the 12 Capabilities form twelve separate streams, they are deeply intertwined, and must be developed in a coordinated manner to enable delivery of the Future European Railway System.

The 12 Capabilities were instrumental in the revision of the Shift2Rail Multi-Annual Action Plan published in November 2017, supporting the continuation of Shift2Rail as a means of delivering innovation to the real world. They also contributed significantly to the development of the ERRAC Rail 2050 Vision, which was published in December 2017, setting the expectations of the entire railway sector. They were an important input to the revision of the UIC Railway Technical Strategy Europe (RTSE) published in 2019.

With a defined and consistent set of strategic documents, in 2018 the RICG committed to further defining the Capabilities with a finer level of detail to identify the “areas of development” (AoD). As building blocks at programme level, and not limited only to technical developments, the AoD will pave the way towards making the Capabilities a reality. The objective is to use them in 2019 to further contribute to ERRAC documents and to influence both the upcoming Horizon Europe FP and the potential Shift2Rail 2 project in continuation of the partnership model supported by the RICG.

The RICG set out to evaluate its recent and current involvement in collaborative research innovation (Horizon 2020 and Shift2Rail) in light of the 12 Capabilities. This resulted in the 2017 project book, “The Railway Operating Community (ROC) involvement in EU projects”, which lists the projects benefitting from EU funding in which RICG members are actively involved and matching them with the Capability(ies) they help to enable. The objective is to offer open access to an iterative revision of this document, with the next version planned for the second half of 2019.

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