A TEAM of researchers and engineers at the University of Huddersfield whose mission is to future-proof the rail network by making innovations in track, rolling stock and safety has won one of the most coveted honours in Higher Education, awarded after scrutiny by the Prime Minister and approval from Her Majesty The Queen.
At a special event at St James's Palace in London, it was announced that the Institute of Railway Research (IRR), based at the University for the past seven years, is to receive a Queen's Anniversary Prize, for research and development that has brought significant improvements to the railway industry.
Present to hear about the Institute's success was its Director, Professor Simon Iwnicki, alongside the University of Huddersfield's Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Tim Thornton. In early 2020, there will be an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Place, attended by University of Huddersfield staff and students and presided over by a senior member of the Royal Family.
Simon Iwnicki said: "On behalf of the whole team, I am delighted that we have been awarded this prize. It is a wonderful recognition of the work that we have been carrying out and the impact this is now having on the railway industry."
Queen's Anniversary Prizes are part of the UK's honours system, but awarded to institutions rather than individuals. They were first presented in 1993 in order to recognise universities and colleges that had carried out ground-breaking pioneering research in a wide range of disciplines. In 2015, the University of Huddersfield received a prize for its world-class research in the field of new music.
The prizes are awarded after highly-detailed submissions are assessed in an independent review process that takes several months and involves a wide range of consultations with experts. A shortlist is drawn up and discussed by the Awards Council of the Royal Anniversary Trust. Finally, a list of recommended institutions is presented to HM The Queen for approval, on the Prime Minister's advice.
World leading research
The Institute of Railway Research led by Professor Iwnicki relocated to the University of Huddersfield, which could provide space and resources for the significant investment and expansion that was envisioned. Since then the Institute has trebled in size as it built up a worldwide reputation for its research into the interaction between railway vehicles and the track. It has used this improved knowledge to support the railway industry in the UK and around the world.
The Institute has participated in many projects with industry and academic partners which have led to significant developments, innovations and practical applications. This work has attracted major investment in world-class equipment.
For example, at the start of 2019 the Centre of Excellence in Rolling Stock was officially launched at the Institute, sharing in £90 million of funding, distributed among three Centres of Excellence, from the Government and from private industry by the UK Rail Research and Innovation Network (UKRRIN).
One of the outcomes is the construction of a world-class, £3.5 million pantograph testing rig, soon to come into use.