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ERCI – European Railway Clusters Initiative

Winners of the ERCI Innovation Awards 2022


Best Small and Medium Enterprise: Vanguard Sustainable Transport Solutions

Best Large Enterprise: iXblue

Coup de Cœur Winner: Metropolitano de Tenerife S.A.

On Wednesday 21 September 2022, during the InnoTrans Rail Expo at Messe Berlin, the European Railway Clusters Initiative (ERCI) awarded prizes to the best European innovations in the railway industry from those companies who submitted applications, at Technology Readiness Level 6 or above, to the annual ERCI Railway Innovation Competition. The competition identifies the best innovation from Large Enterprises as well as deciding on the best innovation from the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) nominations.

The competition also identifies ‘Coup de Cœur’ awards from the remaining nominations where the jury identified particularly strong nominations that were worthy of special recognition.

It goes without saying, that without any nominations, there could not be a competition and all 31 nominations and their parent railway clusters are to be commended on submitting the nominations under particularly challenging circumstances. Encouragingly, the submissions for 2022 amounted to a significant increase (35%) on the previous year’s submissions (itself a significant increase on the 2020 submissions).

As we continue to emerge from the global COVID pandemic, it has been particularly enrichening to be able to stage this year’s ceremony as an ‘in person’ event during the InnoTrans 2022 at the Messe Berlin, Germany.

We are most grateful to Professor Markus Hecht, Head of the Chair for ‘Rail Vehicles’ at TU Berlin for his most valuable contribution as Chairperson of the ERCI Railway Innovation Competition Jury and for presenting the awards during the ERCI Innovation Awards Ceremony.

The 2022 ERCI Innovation Awards

The 31 participating companies have had their submissions assessed by a European Jury composed of railway experts from Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom.  The following companies were selected as winning entries and have been awarded ERCI Innovation Awards as follows:

Best Small and Medium Enterprise:

Vanguard Sustainable Transport Solutions their innovative ‘Hybrid/Hydrogen Traction System’ system.  Vanguard STS are based in the United Kingdom and are members of the BRIC railway cluster, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom

Company: Vanguard Sustainable Transport Systems is a spinout company from the University of Birmingham utilising our experience in designing and delivering the UK’s first hydrogen train – we are focused on developing solutions to decarbonise rail and heavy-duty transport systems.


Innovation: We have developed and deployed the world’s first hybrid hydrogen/battery traction power system that can be retrofitted onto railway rolling stock. Two electric passenger trains have operated with the technology to test, prove and demonstrate the technology and its capability in operation.  We are in the process of converting a shunter locomotive and developing refuelling systems

Advantages: It is a fast and cost-effective way to introduce hydrogen-powered rail vehicles as well as achieving a reduction of emissions and their impact on the environment; moreover, the lower cost and the opportunity to re-deploy and modernise existing rolling stock offer significant benefits.

Best Large Enterprise:

iXblue with their innovative ‘virtual balises concept’.  iXblue are headquartered in France with other global locations and are members of the i-Trans Railway Cluster  

Company: iXblue is a global high-tech company specializing in the design and manufacturing of advanced navigation, positioning and autonomy technologies. The group in-house expertise includes innovative inertial navigation systems for railway applications such as real-time train localization, metrology and mobile mapping.


Innovation:  The inertial virtual balises concept coupling with real time iXblue inertial system on board is a technological breakthrough for train localization applications. The process allows a significant improvement in performance without the use of any other absolute reference, which makes it a very high-quality service that can be hybridised, if necessary, with other technologies in a totally independent manner.

Advantages: Reduction of the footprint of new infrastructure by using virtual items instead of physical ones, reduction of maintenance operations in time and costs. Improvement of the quality of service to users for passenger and freight rail operators and the capability to increase traffic during peak hours. Achievement of future ERTMS 3 objectives as technological partner.

Coup de Cœur Award:

Metrotenerife (Metropolitano de Tenerife S.A.) with their innovation ‘Removable Insulating Chamber for Grooved Rails’.  Metrotenerife are based in Spain and are members of the MAFEX railway cluster

Company: Metrotenerife is an LRT operator with presence in over 5 countries. Transporting millions of passengers every year has allowed it to know first-hand the needs of the sector in order to develop innovative solutions.


Innovation: The Metrotenerife ‘Removable Insulating Chamber for Grooved Rails’ eliminates the inconvenience of demolition for the removal and replacement of rails without affecting the track covering. The time, cost and effort involved in rail maintenance and replacement work are greatly reduced, without losing the benefits and robustness of the system.

Advantages: Operationally: time reduction in rail replacement works, minimize traffic diversions and degraded operation mode, enable periodic and quick inspection of fasteners. Economically: reduction of rail replacement costs of 42%. Environmentally: absence of demolition waste; product manufactured with recycled material and reduction of plastic use.


Many thanks to the ERCI Railway Innovation Competition team for all their hard work and all the companies which participated this year and we look forward to seeing you in 2023 for a new edition of the ERCI Innovation Awards!


Notes for Editors: This information is embargoed until 1700hrs CET on 21 September 2022

ABOUT ERCI – European Railway Clusters Initiative

Founded in 2010, ERCI is the only railway meta-cluster network in Europe.  The ERCI includes 15 major research and innovation driven railway clusters and represents over 2000 SMEs in 16 European countries. During 2022, the ERCI was registered as a legal entity with the prospect of delivering more premium content and offering more collaborative opportunities for railway sector innovation.

The primary objective of the ERCI is to reinforce the competitiveness of the European rail industry through cooperation between large companies, SMEs and research institutes on close-to-market innovation projects.




Press contact: Robert Hopkin, Cluster Manager, BCCRE Research & Innovation Cluster (BRIC), University of Birmingham, UK.  Contact email:


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