EUROPE: Shift2Rail is to provide up to €77·3m of co-funding for 19 research and innovation projects with a total value of €152·6m, the joint undertaking announced on October 17.

The funding to be awarded under the 2018 Call for Proposals brings the cumulative spending on railway research to €490m, which is more than half of the total budget for 2014-20. Shift2Rail says 185 participating companies and organisations will benefit under the package.

The bulk of the money will go to projects undertaken by Shift2Rail member companies; this will account for up to €59·6m. The seven new projects selected under the 2018 Call for Proposals will have a total value of €134·1m. The remaining grants will provide 95·7% EU support for 12 Open Call projects with a combined value of €18·5m. These projects were open to applications from any entity in the EU and associated Horizon 2020 countries, and Shift2Rail says 31·5% of the organisations participating in this year’s Open Call projects will be SMEs.

The selected projects will build on the results achieved in earlier rounds of research spending, and Shift2Rail Executive Director Carlo Borghini believes that the programme is entering ‘an interesting phase, with some of the projects approaching system prototype demonstrations, testing the results from “paper” research in real-life conditions. Some of them will also try to implement radical new ideas. We want to boost research activities while also supporting disruptive innovation to advance railway systems.’

Several projects were demonstrated at InnoTrans by Shift2Rail and its member companies. These included ‘more than 20 cutting-edge initial demonstrations for key technologies, such as connected trams, moving block over ETCS, intelligent freight terminals and obstacle detection devices.’

‘This is a crucial opportunity to invest in projects that will make railways safer, more flexible and more reliable but also cheaper to maintain’, said Henrik Hololei, European Commission Director-General for Mobility & Transport, when the 2018 grants were announced. ‘Innovation is essential for rail to become the preferred transport option for tomorrow.