Lille / Villeneuve d'Asq regional partnerships

An emblematic and defining challenge for IFSTTAR

2011 came to a close with the prospect of three proposals for projects within the framework of the Future Investments Programme that could potentially be of interest to the regional transport research teams. These were for two Labexes and one IRT ( Technological Research Institute). Only the Railenium IRT bid was successful. It was led by the I-Trans competitiveness cluster, the Lille Nord-de-France PRES and 18 partners from industry.

Railenium's main objectives are to extend the life cycle of rail infrastructure (30% increase in track life and 20% increase in traffic capacity) and achieve the rapid international deployment of its new products.

This is a crucial issue for the future of rail transport. The Railenium IRT is located at two sites: a main site in Valenciennes and a secondary site in Villeneuve d'Ascq. IFSTTAR will mainly be showcased at the second site.

This ambitious project involves the creation of a test circuit dedicated to railway infrastructure and its operating environment. This major facility will be backed up by a technological research, training and development structure that will eventually employ 200 researchers, engineers and technicians who will be called upon to develop industrial and academic skills and know-how in the service of innovation. The quality of the proposal is due, first and foremost, to the results of a long experience of collective work between laboratories in the Nord and Picardie Regions and the industrial sector, a process that has been encouraged by strong support from local and regional government. Moreover, due to a happy coincidence of timing, IFSTTAR was able to bring its expertise in several areas to the project - not only civil engineering and soil mechanics but also intelligent communication systems applied to traffic safety and security. For reasons of geographical and institutional proximity, the IFSTTAR site in Lille is very much involved in this initiative, with, of course, essential support from the other sites involved and the full commitment of IFSTTAR’s General Directorate.

Railenium has therefore become an operation that will significantly shape the site's activities.

Strengthening regional partnerships as a springboard for quality improvement

The teams at Villeneuve have maintained and strengthened their involvement in the development of projects with their academic and industrial partners as well as their presence in the scientific governance bodies they are linked to: the scientific boards of partner institutions, the i-Trans competitiveness cluster, the SPI doctoral school, the CISIT-CPER programme and regional consultation bodies. These partnerships are confirmed by the numerous contributions of its researchers to university teaching and the supervision of a steady flow of doctoral students (16 in 2011, out of a total of 110 people working at the site).

A regional presence is not an end in itself, but part of a dynamic that translates into collective and individual gains in terms of outreach and recognition. The activities of the teams working at the site are therefore far from being limited to local partnerships. They are also involved in many national operations, the ANR-TTD CORRIDOR project that was selected in November 2011 and the SYSTUF project (AMI ITS). At the international level, we can mention the work of the ERRAC-Roadmap for rail research and many European projects under the 7th FPRD: SecureMetro, MODSAFE, On-Time, RESTRAIL, GALOROI, QUALISAR, SATLOC, TREND and SECRET.