UNIFE has a long, rich experience with European research and innovation (R&I), acting for decades as both an advocate for increased EU funding for rail research and as a coordinator and partner of dozens of projects dealing with different railway subsystems (e.g. rolling stock, infrastructure, signalling, energy, etc.). The association is active in the secretariat of the European Rail Research Advisory Council (ERRAC), the European Technology Platform dedicated to rail and a trusted partner of the European Commission. The UNIFE Research & Innovation Committee steers the association’s R&I activities.
Perhaps its most notable role in rail R&I to date, UNIFE was at the origin of the Shift2Rail rail research initiative (now Joint Undertaking (JU)). The Shift2Rail journey began in 2009, when key European rail sector players, under UNIFE’s coordination, began imagining a policy instrument that could facilitate a step change for Europe’s rail system. UNIFE was responsible for the proposal phase and gathered more than 100 partners, resulting in an official European Commission proposal in December 2013. Following a vigorous advocacy campaign spearheaded by UNIFE, the Shift2Rail JU was officially launched in July 2014 with a budget of €920 million after its official regulation was adopted by the European Parliament and Council. Currently, 21 UNIFE members are involved in the JU.
Regarding rail R&I, UNIFE seeks to:
- Advocate for sufficient European funding for collaborative rail R&I:
- Advise members of all R&I opportunities at the European Level, providing all relevant information on Horizon 2020, Shift2Rail and other EU R&I programmes (e.g. satellite, cybersecurity and digital programmes);
- Coordinate EU R&I projects of import to the European Rail Industry;
- Facilitate discussion between stakeholders potentially interested in setting-up research consortia;
- Represent the rail industry within ERRAC and create dialogue opportunities for members, railway undertakings, infrastructure managers and academia;
- Prepare for the extension of the Joint Undertaking as Shift2Rail 2 with the support of UNIFE members and the UNIFE Research & Innovation Committee. This successor programme should be the new rail research Public Private Partnership in the next EU Research Framework Programme known as Horizon Europe.
Additionally, UNIFE seeks to link European rail research projects and their outputs with the activities of the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA), CEN/CENELEC and ISO. Our association is an ERA “representative body” and a trusted partner of both CEN/CENELEC and ISO. This cooperation enables UNIFE to ensure that the results of relevant European rail research projects are used by the appropriate regulation and standardisation bodies.