The first phase of construction work for the £46.5m School of Engineering development at the University of Birmingham has been completed this month by contractor Willmott Dixon.
The state-of-the-art Centre of Excellence for Digital Systems showcases successful collaboration between academia and industry, as the university has partnered with the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN) to commission the facility, with £16.4m in funding from Research England.
The Centre sits within the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE) and is set to unite existing academic and industry capabilities to innovate and support transformational change within the rail technology sector, globally.
Procured through the Constructing West Midlands framework, the 3,000m2 facility offers a variety of contemporary and flexible design and research spaces that act as an incubator for innovation, strengthening teaching and building research partnerships. Open offices, meeting rooms, seminar rooms and event spaces will enable industry partners to come and work directly with University experts and researchers.
The facility also has project labs, light labs and state-of-the-art equipment including cab simulators, signalling control centre, cybersecurity test lab along with electronic fabrication and technology assets to enable high quality, fast-paced research, through to proof-of-concept and testing.
The centre will house specialist research in digital railway engineering, focusing on railway control and simulation, data integration, cybersecurity, condition monitoring and sensing, and improved methods for technology introduction.
Nick Gibb, deputy managing director for the Midlands at Willmott Dixon, said: “Despite completing the final stages of the project during the Covid-19 pandemic, our teams optimised industry-leading safety and social distancing measures, which meant we were able to remain on-site during the pandemic and ultimately deliver this phase of the project on time.
Designed by Associated Architects, the striking building has been created to align with the rail industry, featuring Corten cladding to give the same visual impact as railway lines and track signalling.