Austrian consortium successfully joins €920 million EU research initiative

Significantly raising the attractiveness of rail travel: that is the goal of Shift2Rail, a €920 million public-private partnership between the European Union and the rail sector. This research and innovation project aims to secure and strengthen the competitiveness of the European rail industry. “Virtual Vehicle Austria Consortium+” (VVAC+) is one of only 19 European consortia and partners to have been accepted to participate in Shift2Rail. VVAC+ is taking part with a budget of €21 million over the next six years.

Shift2Rail is the first and only European initiative for focused research and development in the field of market-oriented rail solutions. Its goal is to speed up the integration of new technologies into innovative products for rail transport.

A total of €920 million is to be spent on Shift2Rail over a six-year period. Companies and consortia that sought one of the coveted spots as an associate member had to undergo a multi-step admission process. Nineteen of the total 43 applications were successful and are now members of Shift2Rail. One of this inner circle of 19 members is VVAC+ (Virtual Vehicle Austria Consortium+), which is coordinated by the VIRTUAL VEHICLE K2 center with a budget allocation of €21 million.

Thirteen leading Central European players of global reputation (twelve from Austria and one from Slovakia) have joined forces in this consortium to contribute to achieving Europe’s goals in the rail sector.

The strength of diversity

VVAC+ is operating under the “cross-industry” banner, with the aim of fostering cooperation and utilizing expertise from as many sectors as possible. The backbone of VVAC+ consists of four industrial manufacturers (including voestalpine and Plasser&Theurer) with key technologies in rails, switches, freight cars, ties maintenance vehicles and other areas. The suppliers, SMEs, engineering service providers and research organizations in the consortium pave the way for the development of new technologies and contribute new perspectives, in part from other sectors such as AVL List in the automotive and large engines industry. Wiener Linien (Vienna LRT) is also on board as an infrastructure partner, along with integration and testing of newly developed technologies.

Impact and effects

The major commitment of VVAC+ to railway research impacts the entire research and manufacturing environment in Austria. Within the Shift2Rail framework, the consortium can intensify contact with all European players in the railway industry and establish Austria as a leading nation in the railway industry by staging numerous networking events and project meetings in Austria. Austria will benefit from new jobs, worldwide marketing of Austrian technologies, and long-term benefits for research and innovation activities.