World-leading rail innovation centre set for University of Birmingham

Birmingham’s developing reputation as a major centre for railway innovation is set to be enhanced under fresh plans submitted for the University of Birmingham.

The University is proposing to construct a new academic building to house the School of Engineering and UKRRIN (UK Rail Research and Innovation Network) Rail Digital Systems Innovation Centre (DSIC).

The building (see images below) will be a flagship facility for the School of Engineering at the University and has been made possible through funding from the £92m research fund secured in 2017 between the rail supply industry and a consortium of eight universities. It is aimed at establishing a world-leading centre of excellence for railway research.

The intention is that the new facility will support the growth of the engineering sector and deliver a leading centre for research on Digital Systems, focusing on matters such as railway control and simulation, and data integration and cyber security.

A planning statement submitted with the application states:

“Bringing this prestigious development to the University will help to establish a word-leading centre of excellence for railway research and facilitate the growth of the engineering sector.

“This will be beneficial in terms of the continuing development of the University but will also help contribute to the wider economy of the city and West Midlands region.”

The centre would be in addition to the National College for High Speed Rail, which is also based in the city.

The new facility is proposed for part of the University’s Edgbaston campus and the land is currently occupied by the Chemistry West and Atla BioScience buildings, which will be demolished.

The new buildings are said to improve the appearance of the campus and offer the University the chance to strengthen its reputation as a leading institute for research and development.

There are two main elements of the new building:

  • School of Engineering – a 10,180m² facility which provides the majority of the spatial requirements, acts as a marker of excellence, and becomes the heart of the School of Engineering and home to the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research & Education (BCRRE).
  • UKRRIN Digital Systems Innovation Centre – a 2,496m² new building which has synergies with the BCRRE and provides office and lab accommodation for third party research in the rail industry. The UKRRIN will be operated by a combination of the University of Birmingham and other third party stakeholders from the rail industry.

The design and access statement to accompany the application states:

“The new School of Engineering and connected UKRRIN building seeks to create a striking new development, which will be a signature building for the School and University and promote engineering excellence. This will help the School to attract the world’s best academics and increase its staff base from approximately 80 to 140 staff.”

The building will also act as an incubator for innovation and strengthen teaching and research partnerships.

The proposed scheme aims to achieve a BREEAM rating of ‘excellent’ and is targeting completion ready for the September 2020 student intake.

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