Global Centre of Rail Excellence: railway construction innovation

Key Features

UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £575,000 for feasibility studies with projects to propose, deliver and demonstrate Innovation in Railway Construction. Funding is from the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £575,000

Opens: 21st Oct 2022

Closes: 14th Dec 2022

! This scheme is now closed

Global Centre of Rail Excellence: railway construction innovation


UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £575,000 for feasibility studies with projects to propose, deliver and demonstrate Innovation in Railway Construction. Funding is from the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy.

These projects 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


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.

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.


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.

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.

Previous Applications

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

We will not award you funding if you have:

Subsidy control (and State aid where applicable)

This competition provides funding in line with the UK’s obligations and commitments to Subsidy Control. Further information about the UK Subsidy Control requirements can be found within the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation agreement and the subsequent guidance from the department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Innovate UK is unable to award organisations that are considered to be in financial difficulty. We will conduct financial viability and eligibility tests to confirm this is not the case following the application stage.

EU State aid rules now only apply in limited circumstances. Please see our general guidance to check if these rules apply to your organisation.

Further Information

If you are unsure about your obligations under the UK Subsidy Control regime or the State aid rules, you should take independent legal advice. We are unable to advise on individual eligibility or legal obligations.

You must at all times make sure that the funding awarded to you is compliant with all current Subsidy Control legislation applicable in the United Kingdom.
This aims to regulate any advantage granted by a public sector body which threatens to, or actually distorts competition in the United Kingdom or any other country or countries.

If there are any changes to the above requirements that mean we need to change the terms of this competition, we will tell you as soon as possible.


Up to £575,000 has been allocated to fund innovation projects in this phase 1 competition. Funding will be in the form of a grant.

The potential phase 2 competition has up to £6.865 million allocated to deliver and demonstrate the best innovations from the phase 1 feasibility studies. Phase 2 will fund up to 12 projects to deliver demonstrations, with a total grant funding request of up to £570,000 , for up to 12 months in duration.

If your organisation’s work on the project is commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically but for the purpose of this project will be undertaking commercial or economic activity.

For feasibility studies, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 70% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 60% if you are a medium sized organisation
  • up to 50% if you are a large organisation

For more information on company sizes, please refer to the company accounts guidance. This is a change from the EU definition unless you are applying under State aid.

If you are applying for an award funded under State aid Regulations, the definitions are set out in the European Commission Recommendation of 6 May 2003.

Research participation

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 30% of the projects total grant funding requested. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them.

Of that 30% you could get funding for your eligible project costs of up to:

1.80% of full economic costs (FEC) if you are a Je-S registered institution such as an academic

2.100% of your project costs if you are an RTO, charity, not for profit organisation, public sector organisation or research organisation


Interested in applying for this competition?

Book an appointment to speak to one of our advisors to discuss your eligibility to apply for this Grant Funding opportunity.