Press Release: UK rail SME MoniRail and partners announced as winners of the SBRI: Quantum Catalyst Fund (Phase 2)
Award win will enable MoniRail and its partners Transport for London (TfL), Imperial College London, University of Sussex, University of Birmingham, PA Consulting, QinetiQ, and Unipart, to develop a Quantum-based navigation system for the railways to address the issues arising from the loss of satellite signal in tunnels.
12th February 2024
UK rail SME MoniRail have been awarded
a prestigious SBRI: Quantum
Catalyst Fund (Phase 2) contract, funded by the
Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and Innovate UK.
The significant funding will enable MoniRail to build upon its work with
partners Transport for London (TfL),
Imperial College London, University of Sussex, University of Birmingham, PA
Consulting, QinetiQ, and Unipart, to develop a Quantum-based navigation system
for railways to address the issues arising from the loss of satellite signal in
train-position in rail networks to high degrees of accuracy is critical for rail
infrastructure monitoring, measurement, and maintenance. This is one of the
biggest expenses of the railway, with over £2bn per year invested in
proposed system from the team led by MoniRail will combine the technologies and
knowledge from all partner organisations, to enhance positioning accuracy
without relying on expensive infrastructure-based solutions and focus on demonstrating
the condition-based maintenance use-case.
MoniRail’s approach is to use a train as a sensor to frequently
monitor track. This, coupled with precise positioning, provides a more accurate
understanding of a rail network’s condition. Using the data captured by in
service vehicles enhances the ability to predict when necessary intervention is
Ainsworth, CEO at MoniRail, commented: “It is
fantastic to be able to share the news of our success in the SBRI Quantum
Catalyst Fund. As
a University of Birmingham spin-out, we always endeavour to work closely with
our peers across the industry and firmly believe that collaboration is key to
developing new solutions which can benefit the whole railway.
“This funding win will help our relationships and partnerships to produce significant advances in the area of positioning accuracy and enhance our track monitoring solution, through the creation of groundbreaking technology.”
“Working with our partners we will harness quantum sensors to measure parameters such as gravity, time, magnetic fields, and acceleration. This will enable us to explore how we can achieve improved levels of positional accuracy which are critical for both civilian and military needs,” Dr Jamie Vovrosh, Quantum Lead at QinetiQ, explained.
Dr Colin Smith McGloin, Product and
Innovation Director at Unipart said: “Unipart is delighted to be the technology
partner for this project, supporting advancements in railway navigation.
We are excited to begin our journey in developing a UK supply chain for
the manufacture of quantum sensors.”
Paul Plummer, Director of the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and
Education at the University of Birmingham, commented: “It is exciting to see
what bringing together academia and industry can do for the transport sector
and the economy as a whole. Access to technological developments, coupled with
evidence-backed research and industry know-how, provide a pathway for SMEs like
MoniRail to make a difference and shape the future of transportation.”
Mangozza, Technology Expert at PA Consulting, shared: “A quantum-based navigation system for railways has great
potential in the industry. PA Consulting is delighted to be partnering with
academia and industry on this project, bringing our specialised knowledge of
quantum, engineering, and innovation to bring value to the transport sector.”
experts and University of Birmingham spin-out, MoniRail offers innovative
remote condition monitoring systems and data consultancy, that cater to
efficient and seamless infrastructure maintenance solutions. They
already provide a solution for monitoring the condition and degradation of
railway track from on-board operational passenger and freight trains.
Their success in this funding competition will allow
them to collaborate with other industry leaders, furthering their work in this
area with a particular focus on train positioning without the use of satellites.
Notes to Editors:
For further information, images or to
arrange an interview, please contact:
Emma Lever, Senior Communications
Manager, Hey Me
Telephone: +44 7931 843735
Project images can be accessed here: https://we.tl/t-g32IIuyNfJ
over 50 years of combined rail experience, MoniRail is a results driven team of
industry experts dedicated to delivering non-intrusive track monitoring
solutions, through comprehensive knowledge of the infrastructure and its
The software algorithm developed by MoniRail, a University of Birmingham spin out, can interpret data from multiple sources supplying reproduceable information to those who need it. As a reliable source of information gathering, the MoniRail solution is based on 20 years of sound research from the Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education (BCRRE).
About the project (MoniRail)
project will create a highly accurate Quantum Inertial Navigation System (QINS)
based on quantum sensors developed in world-leading research laboratories from
Imperial College London and the University of Sussex.
by rail systems engineering expertise from the University of Birmingham and PA
Consulting, quantum sensors will be integrated into MoniRail’s existing train
monitoring system, creating an innovative GNSS-free navigation solution. This
will be coupled with positioning and navigation experts QinetiQ and
manufacturing specialists, Unipart, to deliver a project that will advance the
commercialisation of the technology significantly.
system will be tested on London Underground’s live rail network to demonstrate
the value of accurate navigation. Trial results will guide the development of
the commercialisation roadmap to address applications in Condition Based
Monitoring (CBM) and Train Control and Signalling Systems. These use cases have
an accessible market of several billions of pounds in the UK and favourable
prospects for export to Europe and further abroad.
About the project (University of Sussex)
Physicists from the University of Sussex Quantum
Systems and Devices research group will be
developing optically pumped magnetometers (OPMs) for the quantum-based railway
OPMs are sophisticated quantum devices used to
measure magnetic fields with high precision and accuracy. Instead of
traditional methods that rely on electrical currents, OPMs utilise laser light
to manipulate the quantum properties of certain materials to infer the strength
and direction of the magnetic field. When
exposed to the laser, these atoms become polarised, meaning their magnetic
moments align and interact with the external magnetic field being measured.
detection of changes in the light absorption of these polarised atoms allows
for accurate determination of the magnetic field strength and direction.
University of Sussex, we specialise in the development of arrays of OPMs for
magnetic gradiometry measurements.
entails handling multiple sensors arranged in a specific configuration to
detect variations in magnetic field strength across space. In a gradiometry
configuration, an array of OPM sensors can greatly enhance the sensitivity and
accuracy of magnetic field measurements.
About the project (Imperial College London)
The team at Imperial College London specialises
in the development of quantum sensors for inertial navigation. These devices
use atom interferometry to make highly accurate acceleration measurements that
exhibit a lower drift than classical accelerometers.
Their latest sensor has
been developed into a transportable form-factor, allowing it to be tested
outside of the laboratory in a variety of real-world environments.
About the project (University of Birmingham)
Our key role in
this pioneering project will be to integrate Quantum Technology (QT) systems
from Imperial College London and the University of Sussex with MoniRail’s
collaboration is set to establish a leading data fusion centre, designed to
deliver superior accuracy and reliability for navigation systems, overcoming
the unique challenges presented by tunnel environments.
In addition to
this, the University of Birmingham will lead the crucial testing and assessment
efforts, aiming to progress the project’s Technology Readiness Level (TRL) from
3 to 6 for rail environment. This phase underscores our expertise in refining
and advancing technological innovations, while also highlighting our commitment
to guiding future enhancements within the rail sector.
About the project (PA Consulting)
Consulting has a diverse team of quantum experts, scientists, and engineers,
whose innovative thinking and expertise in breakthrough technologies will be
key to advancing the quantum-based navigation system.
a collaborative approach, we hope to play an important role in the productisation
of the solution, ensuring the seamless adaptation of sensors to meet the unique
demands of the railway environment.
attention to detail is needed to guarantee that the sensors maintain the
exceptional performance demonstrated in laboratory environments. Achieving this
will pave the way for transformative advancements in the technology roadmap.
About the project (QinetiQ)
QinetiQ is an integrated global defence
and security company focused on mission-led innovation. As part of this
project, the team at QinetiQ will be investigating the optimal methods to
incorporate measurements from the optically pumped magnetometer, developed by
the University of Sussex, into a navigation system.