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"Helping Railways Leap From One State To Another" - An Exclusive Interview with Robert Hopkin

&quote;Helping Railways Leap From One State To Another&quote; - An Exclusive Interview with Robert Hopkin
photo: RAILTARGET/"Helping Railways Leap From One State To Another" - An Exclusive Interview with Robert Hopkin
04 / 07 / 2023

In an exclusive discussion with RAILTARGET, Robert Hopkin, Head of International Collaboration and SME growth and innovation at the Birmingham Center for Railway Research and Education provided insights into the institution's work, emphasizing their involvement in the Balkan region, their innovations in predictive railway maintenance, and their participation in the SEE Mobility fair. The interview explores how this UK-based centre is shaping the future of railway systems globally.

Could you please introduce your institute to us? What is the main purpose and content of your work?

Yes, thank you. My name is Robert Hopkin, and I am the head of international collaboration and SME growth and innovation. I work at the Birmingham Center for Railway Research and Education. This is a separate centre within the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has a long history of railways having, you can argue, invented the railway system nearly two hundred years ago. We have been working for 52 years now in railway research, and about 25 years in terms of railway education, in particular, our master-of-science courses, which we believe are unique in Europe and beyond, because they teach railway systems, engineering, and integration. 


How would you generally judge the cooperation between your research centre and the Balkan region?

We are very involved in the Balkan region because we are members of the European Railway Clusters Initiative, which has 15 business-to-business and innovation clusters, one of which is the Southeast Europe cluster for the railway, RCSEE, here in Serbia. So, it’s a great pleasure to be here again. This is, I think, the third time we have been to the show over the years. We are looking to have partnerships and collaborations in all the Balkan regions, not just in Serbia.  

What are the news and innovations your centre is working on right now?

We are working in remote condition monitoring, data management, and data reporting. What we are really trying to do is help railway systems become able to have predictive maintenance, so, in other words, using data to tell you when something is going to fail. So rather than checking that everything is okay every six months or something like that, we use sensors and our expertise in data management to try and predict failure, and, in that way, we can find a problem and fix it before it happens.

Why did you choose this SEE Mobility fair again to introduce your work? 

We would simply say the relationships with the businesses within the region, but also the people. They are very genuine, helpful, and keen to work with us collaboratively, especially in areas where we have perhaps the lead in terms of hydrogen fuels and, as I say, predictive maintenance. And one of the things we are able to do is help railways leap from one state to another. If the country or region is looking to improve its railways, we like to think that we can help. Others can obviously help, but we have got a long history of working across Europe and all the other populated continents. 

Thank you very much for your answers.

Absolute pleasure. Thank you for your questions.