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Full steam ahead for rail supply industry?

25 June, 2012

The future challenges and strategic opportunities for the rail supply industry are explored in a new report by ANU Enterprise, the commercial arm of The Australian National University.

The report, On Track to 2040, was carried out by ANU Edge, part of ANU Enterprise Consulting, and released by the Minister for Industry and Innovation Greg Combet.

The report identifies 18 priority opportunities for technology development in three main areas – materials and manufacturing, monitoring and management, and power and propulsion.

The report also makes strategic recommendations in six areas: governance, standardisation and regulation, funding, collaboration, research and policy.

"These recommendations represent the most important actions to be taken by the industry in achieving the industry’s vision of collaboration, innovation and growth," Director of Industry and Government at ANU Enterprise Tom Wood said.

"We’ve been working with industry, government and research teams to develop a strategic plan for the rail supply industry to gauge how it can position itself and build on its competitive advantages to meet the challenges and the opportunities over the next 30 years.

"The rail industry stretches back more than 100 years. Today there are around 330 companies with 15,000 employees engaged directly in rail, so it’s a significant manufacturing sector and the opportunities to expand are large. A challenge will be trying to remain competitive globally."

Project leader Dr Matthew Doolan said there are a wide range of reasons to address the future of the rail industry.

"There are the obvious factors such as increasing population pressures, congestion in cities and the need to move more people around. But there’s also the interest in high speed rail, with the opportunity to connect the eastern capitals, and now with the mining industry, there’s a huge need to move bulk resources from the interior of Australia to the ports, where we can send it overseas," Dr Doolan said.

"We looked at technologies and capabilities in Australian manufacturing that could be used to meet global commercial opportunities, and we also looked at opportunities where rail links with other areas of strategic capability for Australia, such as natural resources."

ANU Edge delivers knowledge services informed by the world-class research and practice at The Australian National University and is dedicated to the application of university research and knowledge excellence to satisfy real-world needs.

The project was conducted in collaboration with the University of Cambridge-based Institute for Manufacturing, the CRC for Rail Innovation, and Strategic Connections Group.