Awaiting the arrival of the 6am train from York to London isn’t something I would normally relish, but today was different as I was excited to be asked to represent the Community Transport Association and to be a judge of the Alstom Rail Grand Challenge. The event was being held within the conference facilities of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in Westminster which is steeped in transport history and the stories of how the United Kingdom has been, and continues to be, a country of innovators.
Alstom, Europe’s largest railway supply and services organisation, is growing its business in the UK. It has recognised that UK SMEs have a world-class record of innovation and generating solutions to some of the biggest challenges in science, technology and engineering. To stimulate engagement with this valuable resource, Alstom has launched the ‘Rail Grand Challenge’ competition.
The fund is an Alstom initiative and they have contracted the Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) to provide project management and support for the competition. TSC is one of ten elite technology and innovation centres established and overseen by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.
We were honoured to be asked to judge these entries by Ouahcene Ourahmoune, Innovation and Business Director and Alex Burrows, Marketing and Strategy Director of Alstom. As our association represents over 1600 members across the UK, we were asked to be part of the panel to give our unique perspective of accessible and inclusive transport and explain the challenges our members and their service users experience whilst travelling on the railway.
It was really inspiring to see a real breadth of high quality ideas and passion deeply held by those SMEs who were keen to work alongside, and gain funding and mentoring from, Alstom UK’s team.
After a very long day of judging we decided upon a winner but what I thought was fantastic was the Alstom team who kept us all in the room until we had a clear onward journey, or opportunities for other funding, for the other entrants who were not successful on the day. This was inspirational to me and demonstrated a real duty of care by Alstom to the organisations who had clearly taken their time and put a huge amount of effort to present their ideas to the judging panel.
I wish all the applicants well with their future plans and look at our Twitter and LinkedIn feed when the successful applicant is announced soon.